Amos 5



Chapter 5 and 6 are a lamentation over the fall of Israel.  In ch. 5:


o       Amos calls Israel  to repentance, while he shows wherein she has

declined from the right way.  (vs.1-3)


o       To make this plain, he contrasts God’s power and majesty with the people’s

iniquity, instances of which he gives (vs. 4-12).


o       The only condition of safety is amendment (vs. 13-15); and


o       As they refuse to reform, they shall have cause to lament (vs. 16-17).


o       This threat is enforced by the two emphatic “woes” that

follow, the first of which demonstrates the baselessness of their trust in

their covenant relation to God (vs. 18-27);


1 “Hear ye this word which I take up against you, even a lamentation,

O house of Israel.”  Hear ye this word. To show the certainty of the judgment and

his own feeling about it, the prophet utters his prophecy in the form of a dirge (kinah,

II Samuel 1:17; II Chronicles 35:25). Which I take up against you; or, which I raise

over you, as if the end had come. O house of Israel; in the vocative. The Vulgate has,

Domus Israel cecidit; so the Septuagint. But the present Hebrew text is most suitable,

making the dirge begin at v. 2. The ten tribes are addressed as in v. 6.


2 “The virgin of Israel is fallen; she shall no more rise: she is forsaken

upon her land; there is none to raise her up.”  The virgin of Israel; i.e. the

virgin Israel; so called, not as having been pure and faithful to God, but as tenderly

treated and guarded from enemies (compare Isaiah 23:12; 47:1; Jeremiah 14:17).

Is fallen (compae II Samuel 1:19); she shall no more rise. This is apparently a

contradiction to the promise of restoration elsewhere expressed, but is to

be explained either as referring exclusively to the ten tribes, very few of

whom returned from exile, and to the kingdom of Israel which was never

reestablished.  Forsaken upon her land; better, she shall be dashed upon

her own land; her own soil shall witness her ruin — that soil which was “virgin,”

unconquered, and her own possession.  (The same could say of America, the

virgin – never been conquered on her own land, but 9/11 showed vulnerability

to be messed with! – 9/11 never would have happened had America been

true to God instead of departing from Him over the last half century! - CY – 2013)

(Case in point:  “Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked

in my ways!  I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand

against their adversaries.” Psalm 81:13-14 - CY - 2022)


3 “For thus saith the Lord GOD; The city that went out by a thousand

shall leave an hundred, and that which went forth by an hundred

shall leave ten, to the house of Israel.”  The vindication of the prophet’s lament.

The city that went out by a thousand. Septuagint and Vulgate, “from which went

Forth thousands,” or, “a thousand;” i.e. which could send out a thousand warriors to

the fight, in such a city only a tenth of the inhabitants shall remain; and this shall

happen to small cities as well as great.



Israel’s Elegy (vs. 1-3)


It is poor work singing the things that might have been. It means sweet

dreams dispelled, fair hopes blighted, and human lives in ruins. Yet such is

the prophet’s task in this passage — writing Israel’s elegy among the

graves of her dead millions. He had been denouncing nameless woes

against the rebellious people, Here he changes his tone to that of a

mournful spectator of accomplished ills. In imagination he throws himself

forward out of the sinful present into the calamitous future, and in

accommodation to the change of scene his denunciation becomes a dirge. It

is a natural transition, and at the same time a new form of appeal. When

ears become inattentive, the skilled musician will vary his tune. We have here:


  • A BROKEN IDEAL. The things that might have been with Israel were

far enough from existing facts. The Israel of God’s ideal was:


Ø      A holy people. (Exodus 19:6; Deuteronomy 28:9.) Theoretically

they were, as the word “holy” means (Deuteronomy 7:6), a people

separated from men, and sin and set apart to God. But the fair ideal

of their national life remained an ideal and nothing more. The

reality never reached it, never approached it. They connected

themselves freely with heathen men and heathenish sin. They at times

outdid the nations (ch.2:6-9) in avarice, injustice, spoiling the poor,

abominable rites, and every nameless infamy.


Ø      An unconquered people. This is the force of the expression “virgin

(of) Israel.” God was to champion their cause, and to fight for them

as His loyal people (Deuteronomy 1:30). If, and so long as he did so,

they would be invincible. But they never claimed His help on the

appointed terms. His promise was doubted (Ibid. v.32) and its

conditions disregarded, with the inevitable result that it failed of

fulfillment in MANY A CRITICAL TIME!   Israel, theoretically

“the unconquered,” was practically the often vanquished, the twice

carried captive, the soon-to-be-destroyed. God’s help comes

surely, but comes only where there is attention to the conditions on

which it is offered and given.


Ø      A prosperous people. Palestine, their national inheritance, was

the very garden of the earth; unique in the combination of the highest

agricultural capacities, with the finest commercial situation. The

prosperity of an industrious, peaceful nation in it was, so far as

favorable circumstances went, a foregone conclusion. But:


o       war had devastated, and

o       mildew blighted, and

o       drought laid bare its fertile fields (ch.4:6-13).


God saw His gifts abused and made the ministers of sin, and He was

driven to destroy these in their hands.  When temporal good begins to

be made the occasion of moral evil, our tenure of it will soon end.

(This is happening in America in the 21st century to which the leaders and

citizenry seem to be oblivious – CY – 2013)


Ø      A happy people. A people prosperous, strong, and pure, could not but

be happy as well (Psalm 144:15). And such was Israel in the Divine

ideal (Deuteronomy 33:29). But the actual misery experienced was as

complete as the theoretical happiness revealed. HAPPINESS is

 nowhere so IMPOSSIBLE, MISERY nowhere so INTENSE,


THEMSELVES!  In proportion as the former might have been,

will the latter be.


  • AN ANTICIPATIVE DIRGE. Prescient of coming evil, the prophet’s

lamentation becomes a funeral song.


Ø      A nation made shipwreck is a sight for tears. It is the destruction of

magnificent possibilities of good. It is the failing of a tremendous reality

of evil.  It is the ruin of most precious interests on a gigantic scale. If one

soul lost is the occasion of grief to pure spirits and A TRAVAILING

SAVIOUR, what must the calamity be when MULTIPLIED



Ø      When the wicked fall the truest mourners are the righteous. Not

the heathen who had seduced them, not the remnant of apostate Israel

that might escape, but the prophet of God, who had kept himself

unspotted in the midst of national corruption, was the tearful mourner

by the ruined nation’s grave. The wicked are TOO SELFISH  to

care for any sorrows but their own. They are as the wolves,

which would make a prey of the dead one’s remains, rather than

any mourning for his fall. God and the God-like alone truly mourn

when the wicked perish.


Ø      A prophetic sight of his own epitaph ought to stay the hand of

the suicide. Men supposed to be dead have lived to read their own

obituary notice. It has enabled them to see themselves for once as

others see them.  And it ought to have a practical influence for good.

Israel, reading beforehand the inscription on their own tomb,

might have been warned away, if anything could have warned

 them, from the course in which they were rushing on. It showed

them what was coming, and how it was being brought on, and how

it looked, whether as a morality or a policy, in enlightened eyes. An

adequate idea of sin MUST INCLUDE ITS END and issues

and place in history, and this IT WAS IN ISRAEL’S POWER

TO LEARN  (AND OURS ALSO – CY – 2013) from Amos’s

prophetic wail.


  • AN INSPIRED COMMENTARY. An act of God is an expression of

His way. The way of God is a revelation of His purpose. All three are along

the lines of the just and fitting. Now:


Ø      Adequate punishment means practical extermination. Sin is an

infinite crime, merits an infinite punishment, and failing this will receive a

punishment exhaustive of the criminal’s good. The proverbial question,

“Wherefore doth a living man complain?” (Lamentations 3:39), is

An understatement of the case. While a field, or a blessing, or a living

man remained, Israel had not been punished as it deserved. When

body and soul have been both destroyed, there will still be no more

than JUSTICE DONE!   If our sin have not its punishment

IN CHRIST then that punishment must be UTTER



Ø      When wrath smites many, mercy spares a remnant. Ninety

percent were to be destroyed. The thousand should become a

hundred, and the hundred ten. Neither the strength of the great

nor the insignificance of the small should avail them for escape.

With perfect impartiality, all should be made to suffer proportionally.

Yet decimation was to stop short of utter extinction. A tenth part

(see Isaiah 1:9; 6:13) should be spared. This less guilty remnant,

taught and chastened by the judgments which swept away the

bulk of the nation, might form the nucleus of a new and better

Israel. When judgment has destroyed the “bread to the eater,”

mercy often steps in and saves a “seed to the sower.” (Isaiah

55:10).  There is seldom a deluge without its ark and its

Noah family, the conditions and materials of a fresh start for

the reduced.


Ø      Israel decimated is Israel still. The remnant would retain the

national name, and with it the covenant relation and privileges to

which the name referred (Genesis 32:28). Toward the Gentile

Church, for its sin “cast down but not destroyed,” the same

gracious policy was announced (Isaiah 54:7-10). While a

Mephibosheth remains the royal line of God’s anointed is not

extinct. Chastisement makes a chaos only to bring out of it

the young world of a new life and a new hope (Psalm 89:30-33).


4 “For thus saith the LORD unto the house of Israel, Seek ye me, and

ye shall live:” The more formal proof that Israel has merited her punishment

here begins. In calling her to repentance the prophet contrasts God’s

requirements with her actual conduct. Seek ye me, and ye shall live. Two

imperatives: “Seek me, and (so) live;” duty and its reward. “Seek me in the

appointed way, and ye shall be saved from destruction” (compare Genesis 42:18).




                                                Seek the Lord (v. 4)


Man is by nature a seeker. He desires good, of one kind or another, and

what he desires he makes the object of his quest, more or less diligent and

persevering. Hence the restlessness, the energy, the effort, so distinctive of

human life. Religion does not destroy or repress natural characteristics; it

hallows and dignifies them. Religion gives to human search a just direction

and noble aim.





1. Man is so constituted that he cannot find a full satisfaction in any earthly

and created good. He returns from every such endeavor with the

complaint, “All is vanity.” “Our heart,” said St. Augustine — “our heart is

restless till it rests in thee.”


2. Especially do all human religions prove their insufficiency. Israel was

learning this by bitter experience. “Seek not Bethel,” etc., was the

admonition of the prophet to those who had been in the habit of resorting

to idol shrines. The gods of the heathen were known to the Jews as






1. His own proper excellence is such that the soul that gains even a glimpse

of it may well devote to the pursuit of Divine knowledge and favor all

powers and all opportunities.


2. GOD ALONE IS ABLE TO SUCCOR AND SAVE those who set their

affection and desire upon Him.


3. God condescends to invite the children of men to seek Him. By the

mouth of the prophet He gives an express command and invitation. We may

be assured that this language is sincere and trustworthy.


4. There is an express promise of incomparable preciousness addressed to

such as are ready to respond to the heavenly call. “Ye shall live,” is the

authoritative assurance. By this we may understand that seekers after God

shall be delivered from destruction, that they shall be made partakers of the

Divine life, in all its spiritual energy and happiness.




1. Observe where He is to be found: i.e.


a.      in His holy Word;

b.      in his blessed Son,


by whom in this Christian dispensation He has revealed Himself unto

us, and who has said, “No man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

(John 14:6)


2. Consider how He is to be found: i.e.


a.      by penitence,

b.      in humility,

c.       through faith, with prayer;


in a word, by the exercises special to the spiritual nature.


3. Notice when He is to be found: i.e. NOW: “Seek ye the Lord while He may

be found, call ye upon Him while He is near.”  (Isaiah 55:6)




                                    Seeking the Lord (v. 4)


“For thus saith the Lord unto the house of Israel, Seek ye me, and ye shall

live.” It is impossible to read this chapter without noticing the tenderness

of the prophet, his compassion and pitifulness, his yearning wish to help

and save. This feeling is the more remarkable because Amos belonged to

the tribe of Judah, and felt thus towards the neighboring and hostile

kingdom of Israel. Such pity is ever a sign of Divine inspiration. Thus

Isaiah (Isaiah 22:4) says, “Look away from me; I will weep bitterly,

labour not to comfort me, because of the spoiling of the daughter of my

people,” etc. Samuel, too, after Saul the king had proved himself so

headstrong and willful that nothing could save him, although he went down

to his own house and, in accordance with Divine command, saw him no

more, nevertheless mourned for Saul to the day of his death. And, loftiest

of all, Christ Jesus stood on the Mount of Olives, and as He beheld the city

which had rejected Him, He wept over it, saying,  etc.! It was

in this spirit that Amos wrote the passage before us, and thrice repeated the

message in our text. Meditation on this subject gives us some thoughts:


1. On the loss of God.

2. On the search for God.

3. On life in God.


·                     THE LOSS OF GOD. The exhortation to “seek” Him implies that He has

been lost sight of by His creatures. This is brought about by various



1. By intellectual temptations. These vary in different ages. In the time of

Amos the study of God’s works led to superstition, while in these days it

leads many to skepticism. Then the stars were believed to affect human

destiny (v. 8); each season had its own deity; every element obeyed some

unseen being. The polytheist would have joined heartily with the Jew in

saying, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” In our day, on

the contrary, folly is supposed to lie in the other direction, namely, in the

heart of him who believes in that which is beyond sensuous perception and

purely intellectual research. Science, which has driven fairies from the

woods, elves from the mountains, and nymphs from the sea, is now

supposed to be almost prepared to drive God from his universe. Articles

in our magazines, addresses in our halls, speak with such ill-disguised

contempt of religious men that their language is, “The fool hath said in his


MORE!   Men are not satisfied with knowing, and some who see no evidence

for a future heaven are bitterly asking — Is life worth living? Amidst the

miseries of civilized society, and the wrangling of sects, many a one secretly

says, “My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God!” (Psalm 84:2)

In an age when men believed in gods who had no personal love or

righteousness, they wanted to know the heavenly Father; and in this age,

when skepticism has swept the world bare of some of its old creeds,

we do well to hearken to the message of God, “Seek ye me, and ye shall live.”

(v. 4)


2. By prevailing idolatries. Show how places of sacred memory had

become sources of idolatry and pollution (v. 5).


a.      Bethel, where Jacob saw the heavenly ladder, and vowed that he

      and his would be the Lord’s;

b.   Gilgal, where the people reconsecrated themselves on entering Canaan;

c.  Beersheba, where Abraham called on the Lord, and Isaac built his altar,

            and Israel offered sacrifice when going with his sons into Egypt;


were all transformed into idolatrous resorts. From this, point out how easily

creeds, forms of worship, holy places and relics, nominal profession of

Christianity, etc., may hide God, instead of bearing witness to him. Suggest

also certain modern idolatries.


3. By practical unrighteousness. Amos addressed his hearers as “Ye who

turn judgement to wormwood [that is, who, instead of rendering justice,

commit bitter wrong], and leav e off righteousness in the earth [or, rather,

‘dethrone it from rule’].” Trace these sins in some trades and professions,

and in some social customs and ecclesiastical movements, of our own day.

Yet, in spite of such sins, which will incur the penalties here foretold, the

message comes to every sinner from Him who is not willing that any should

perish, “Seek ye me, and ye shall live.”


·               THE SEARCH FOR GOD. Let us rightly estimate the privilege offered

to us. God is great beyond our conceptions. “He maketh the seven stars

and Orion,” etc., yet says, “To that man will I look… who is of a humble

and contrite heart.”  (Isaiah 66:2)


1. There is necessity for seeking Him. He will not force Himself on our

notice, nor blazen His name in the sky. Any man, if he chooses, is free to

live as if God were not. It is “he who seeketh findeth.”


2. There are advantages in seeking him. These are additional to the

advantages of FINDING HIM!. The most precious things (jewels, corn,

knowledge, etc.) are not the most easily obtained. The self-discipline, the

steadfast effort, the trials of faith and hope, etc., cultivate character. So, in

seeking God, we find that the pains and difficulties resulting from doubts,

indolence, sins, etc., are part of our Heaven-appointed discipline. If God

were visible as the sun is visible, there would be no moral advantage in

“seeking” Him; but as He is visible only through faith and prayer, we rise

heavenward in our very seeking after Him.


3. There is a right way of seeking Him. Hence v. 5, “Seek not Bethel,”

etc. Some hoped to get help in other directions rather than in the path of

penitential prayer. Multitudes now, instead of turning to Him who is the

Light of the world, pursue false lights, which, like the will-o’-the-wisp, will

lead to destruction. Hear the words of Jesus Christ: “He that hath seen me

hath seen the Father;” “I and the Father are one.”


·                     THE LIFE IN GOD. “And ye shall live. This does not allude to

national life. That was irrevocably doomed. But in the doomed nation any

sinner turning to God would live. Nor is the allusion to natural life, but to

that spiritual life which is referred to in the verse, “This is life eternal, that

they might know thee, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” John 17;3) 

This life in its nature and source is more fully revealed to us than to Amos



1. The source of this life is found in God, revealed to us in Jesus Christ our

Lord. No man can create life where it is not, nor restore it where it once

was. Christ, by the raising of the dead, showed in a visible sphere what He

alone can do in the invisible. “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God

is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  (Romans 6:23)


2. The nature of this life. It is Divine, and constitutes us “partakers of the

Divine nature.”


a.  Its germ is faith,

b.  its inspiration is love,

c.  its breath is prayer,

d.  its manifestation the likeness of Christ.


3. The vigor of this life. It will live amid the influences of an evil

atmosphere, as a healthy man walks unhurt through a tainted hospital It will

assert itself in streams of benediction to the world around, and it will finally

prove itself victorious over death; for the Lord has said, “He that liveth and

believeth in me shall never die.  Believest thou this?”  (John 11:25)


5 “But seek not Bethel, nor enter into Gilgal, and pass not to Beersheba: for

Gilgal shall surely go into captivity, and Bethel shall come to nought.”

BethelGilgal. The scenes of idolatrous worship, where was

no true seeking of God (see note on ch.4:4). Beersheba. A spot

about fifty miles south-southwest of Jerusalem, the site of which has never

been lost, and is marked to this day by seven much-frequented wells. As

being one of the holy places celebrated in the history of the patriarchs

(Genesis 21:31, 33; 26:23-25; 46:1), it had become a shrine of

idolatrous worship, to which the Israelites resorted, though it lay far out of

their territory (compare ch.8:14). Gilgal shall surely go into captivity.

There is in the Hebrew a play on the words here and in the

following clause (Hag-gilgal galoh yigleh), which commentators have

paralleled with such expressions as, Capua capietur, Cremona cremabitur,

Paris perira, London is undone.” Or, taking Joshua’s explanation of the

name, we may say, “Roll-town shall be rolled away.” Bethel shall some to

nought. As Bethel, “House of God,” had become Bethaven, “House of

vanity” (see Hosea 4:15), as being the temple of an idol (compare

I Corinthians 8:4), so the prophet, with allusion to this, says that Bethel

shall become aven— vanity, nothingness, itself. No mention is made of

the fate of Beersheba, because Amos has in view only the ten tribes, and

the destiny of places beyond their territory is not here the object of his

prediction; and indeed, when Israel was ruined, Beersheba escaped unharmed.


6 “Seek the LORD, and ye shall live; lest He break out like fire in the

house of Joseph, and devour it, and there be none to quench it in Bethel.”

Break out like fire. God is called “a consuming fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24;

Hebrews 12:29; compare Jeremiah 4:4). And devour it; Septuagint,  Ὅπως μὴ

ἀναλάμψη ὡς πῦροϊκος Ἰωσὴφ καὶ καταφάγῃ αὐτόν, Hopos mae

analampsiae hos pur ho oikos Iosaeph kai kataphagae auton -  “Lest the

 house of Joseph blaze as fire, and He devour him;” Vulgate, Ne forte

comburatur ut ignis domus Joseph, et devorabit. But it is best to take the

last member of the sentence thus: “and it (the fire) devour.” The house

of Joseph. Ephraim, i.e. the kingdom of Israel, of which Ephraim was the

distinguishing tribe. In Bethel; or, for Bethel. The Septuagint, paraphrasing,

has, τῷ οἴκῳ Ἰσραήλ, – to oiko Israel - “for the house of Israel.”



The Seeking that is Life (vs. 4-6)


This passage contains at once a vindication of the coming destruction on Israel, and

a last offer of escape. All past evil had been justly incurred by DEPARTURE

FROM GOD.  All coming evil might yet be avoided by RETURN TO HIM.

“Seek ye me” was the direction on their treatment of which the whole issue turned.



The antediluvians were PREACHED TO FOR A CENTURY after

their destruction was denounced. So Jerusalem got a Pentecost, and the

ordinances of a Christian Church for forty years after Christ had pronounced

her doom (Matthew 23:37-39).


Ø      Gods threatenings are in a certain sense conditional on mens

 conduct.  They are addressed to men in their character or circumstances

at the time they are uttered. If and when the character or circumstances

cease to exist, the threatenings cease to apply. It was so in the case of

Hezekiah (Isaiah 38:1, 5), and also of Nineveh (Jonah 3:4, 10). God in

such cases does not change, but the circumstances do, and his modes

of treatment change accordingly.


Ø      They are  designed to turn men, not to plunge them in despair.

All life is disciplinary. Each event and experience is fitted, and meant to

exercise a moral influence.   Being, moreover, controlled by a holy

God, the moral influence of each must be in the direction of right, It is

so with blessings and the promise of them (Romans 2:4; Isaiah 1:19).

It is so also with judgments and the threat of them (Isaiah 26:9;

Luke 13:3,5).  God takes pleasure in the soul’s turning (Ezekiel 18:23,32),

and all His dealings with it aim at and tend to this result. Therefore, until

judgment actually falls, the threat of it is kept as a deterrent before the

sinner’s eyes.


Ø      INDIVIDUALS MAY TURN after national repentance has

become hopeless.  Language addressed to a nation is really meant

for the individuals composing it; and as individuals they would be

influenced by it. No general forsaking of sin was probable in Israel.


and were saved after the destruction of the city as a whole

was foretold; and, so long as this was possible, the means fitted to turn

would not be withdrawn. God’s expostulations will go forth to glean in

comers even when the prospects of a harvest are blighted.



LIFE TO FIND. To Israel here and to all men everywhere the great object

of search is God, not mere good (Psalm 42:2); and GOD FOR HIMSELF,



Ø      This seeking implies previous non-possession. God is neither the

property of the wicked nor his possession. Sin made separation

between them, and a severing of all previously existing ties. Man

abandoned God, and God drove out man. Now he is “without

God, (having no hope…in the world),  Ephesians 2:12, is

“enmity against God,” bids God depart from him, says in his

heart, “No God.” It is only by the saint, and after seeking, that it

can be said, “I have found him whom my soul loveth

(Song of Solomon 3:4). “This God is our God forever and ever.”

(Psalm 48:14).  Grace it is that knits again the ties broken by sin,

and restores man and God to a condition of mutual love and

possession and indwelling.


Ø      It is a quest with the whole heart and strength. The essence of

seeking God is to desire Him. And to desire Him really is TO

DESIRE HIM HEARTILY!   Not to desire Him with other things.

Not to desire Him more than other things. Not to desire Him weakly.

Not even to desire Him strongly. BUT TO DESIRE HIM


is heart seeking, or it is nothing. Heart seeking is truly such when it is

seeking with the whole heart.  Therefore only to such seeking is there

a promise of finding “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye

shall search for me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13; 24:7).

God cannot be had till He is adequately wanted, and to be

wanted adequately is to be wanted supremely.


Ø      It is synonymous with finding. In God’s world everywhere supply

meets and measures demand. Plant, animal, and man, each FINDS on

earth, in climate, habitat, covering, and food, EXACTLY THE

THING IT NEEDS!  There is no want for which there is not

FULL AND FITTING PROVISION!  So in the spiritual

sphere. “Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst after

righteousness, for they shall be filled,” (Matthew 5:6).  Over

against every need of the soul is a Divine supply. That need becoming

conscious, means help waiting; that need expressed, means help

already on the way.  Spiritual good is obtained on the simple condition

of its being truly desired.


Ø      To find God is to find all good which inheres in Him. God is

Himself the greatest Good; He is, moreover, the Sum, and

therefore the Source, of all good. There is certain good which

He unconditionally bestows on all, even the ungodly. But it is

good of the lower kinds, and which ministers to the lower needs. All

spiritual good, and all temporal good that has any spiritual aspect,

God gives only WITH AND IN JESUS CHRIST (Romans 8:32;

Matthew 6:33). The planets attend the sun and follow where he leads.


lesser gifts wait. We have them when we grasp Him.


Ø      This good, summed up in one word, IS LIFE!   Life is a general

term for the highest good (Psalm 30:5; 133:3). It is physical life, the

prevention or withdrawal of destroying judgments. It is judicial life,

or the reversal of the death sentence on the soul, and the privilege

for it of living. It is spiritual life, being quickened once for all out

of the death in sin, being made alive and kept alive. It is

EVERLASTING LIFE,  the out blooming in eternity of the

flower of soul life planted on earth. (“it doeth not yet appear

what we shall be:  but we know that, WHEN HE SHALL

APPEAR,  we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as

HE IS.”  (I John 3:2)



TURN. It was under pretence of greater convenience that Jeroboam’s

calves were set up in Dan and Bethel. But Beersheba was fifty miles south

of Jerusalem, and Gilgal was on the other side of Jordan, and so most

inconvenient of access. That Israel preferred them to Jerusalem was proof

that they preferred idolatrous rites to the worship of God.


Ø      Idols are mans own invention, and therefore the EGOIST

CHOICE.   There is self-sufficiency verging on self-worship in all sin.

Man puts his own opinion and will and work above God’s (Thus

the philosophies of Darwin, Freud, Marx, etc. and the damage done

in their AFTERMATHS!  THOUGH BOMBS, if you please –

CY – 2013). An idol is his own creation, and for that reason, if for

no other, is preferred to God. It is a subtle form of SELF-

WORSHIP (such is secular humanism – CY – 2013), and so

inevitably preferred to any other.


Ø      They are credited with qualities congenial to his nature. A man

impresses himself on his work, virtually puts himself into it. It reflects his

genius and his moral character. The idol a man makes is thus substantially

a repetition of himself, and therefore congenial to him all round. (“They

have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see

not; They have ears, but they hear not; neither is there any

breath in their mouths.  They that make them are like unto

them:  so is every one that trusteth in them.” – Psalm 135:15-18)

Made by his hand, it is after his heart, which the God of heaven is very

far from being.


Ø      The fall into idol worship is broken by the retention in it of a

flavoring of the worship of God. Bethel and Beersheba, its shrines,

were spots where the Divine presence had of old been richly manifested,

its rites mimicked, to some extent, the national worship of God. It was

added on at first to Divine worship, not substituted for it. Satan lets men

down into idolatry by easy stages. It begins in the sanctuary. It appears

at first in the likeness of a better thing. (I wonder how contemporary

worship fits into this?  - CY – 2013).  Then, when men have become

sufficiently familiar with it and degraded by it to bear the sight, it

puts on its natural shape, and is IDOL WORSHIP PURE AND




MEAN DISASTER. By a play upon words, Gilgal, “the Great Rolling,” is

to be rolled away; and Bethel, styled elsewhere “Bethaven,” shall become

aven,” or vanity.


Ø      An idol is a figment, and the worship of it can only result in

deception and loss. It is not a thing, but only the image of a thing,

It is the image, moreover, not of a real, but of an imaginary thing.

It is, therefore, “nothing,” and “a thing of nought (I Corinthians

8:4), and out of nothing, nothing can come. To worship it is delusion,

to trust it inevitable disappointment.


Ø      Gods infinite power and His wrath are against them that forsake

Him.  The idolater pits idol impotence against Divine omnipotence,

with the inevitable result of discomfiture and destruction. There are

idols of the heart the service of which is no less ruinous. They group

 themselves under the heading “world,” and the love of them is

incompatible with the love of God, and so “Anathema” (I John 2:15;

I Corinthians 16:22).


7 “Ye who turn judgment to wormwood, and leave off righteousness

in the earth,”  The prophet brings out the contrast between Israel’s moral

corruption and GOD’S OMIPOTENCE!   Ye who turn judgment to

wormwood. As Jerome puts it,” Converterunt dulcedinem judicii in

absinthii amaritudinem,” “They turned the sweetness of judgment into the

bitterness of absinth” (compare ch. 6:12). Who make judgment the

occasion of the bitterest injustice. There is no syntactical connection

between this verse and the last, but virtually we may append it to “seek the

Lord.” It would sound in people’s ears as a reminiscence of

Deuteronomy 29:18, 20. The Septuagint reads, ποιῶν εἰς ὕψος κρίμα -

Ho poion eis hupsios krima - that executeth judgment in the height,”

referring the sentence to the Lord, or else taking laanah, “wormwood,” in a

metaphorical sense, as elsewhere they translate it by ἀνάγκη πικρίαὀδύνη -

- anagkae pikria odunae - (Deuteronomy 29:18; Proverbs 5:4; Jeremiah 9:15;

23:15). The name “wormwood” is applied to all the plants of the genus that

grow in Palestine the taste of which was proverbially bitter. And leave off

righteousness in the earth; rather, cast down righteousness to the earth

(as Isaiah 28:2), despise it and trample it underfoot (compare Daniel 8:12).

This is Israel’s practice; and yet GOD, as the next verse shows, IS ALMIGHTY,

and has power to punish!  Righteousness includes all transactions between

man and man. The Septuagint (still referring the subject to the Lord),

καὶ δικαιοσύνην εἰς γῆν ἔθηκεν, dikaiosunaen eis gaen ethaeken - and

He established righteousness on earth.


8 Seek Him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the

shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with

night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out

upon the face of the earth: The LORD is His name:” Striking instances are

given of God’s creative power and omnipotence. Seek Him that maketh

the seven stars. “Seek him” is not in the Hebrew. “He that maketh,” etc.,

is in direct antithesis to “ye who turn,” etc. (v. 7). The seven stars; Hebrew,

kimah, “the heap,” the constellation of the Pleiades (Job 9:9; 38:31). The

Septuagint here has, ποιῶν πάνταho poion panta - the One making everything

but in Job has  ΠλειάδαPleiada - Pleiades.  The Vulgate gives, facientem Arcturum.

Symmachus and  Theodotion give Πλειάδα (Pleiades) in the present passage. The

observation of this most remarkable cluster among the heavenly bodies would be

natural to the pastoral life of Amos. And Orion; Hebrew, kesil, “foolish,” a rebel, the

name being applied to Nimrod, whose representation was found by the Easterns in

this  constellation. Some render kesil, “gate;” others connect it with the Arabia

sohail, equivalent to Sirius, or Canopus. The Septuagint here has, καὶ μετασκευάζων

kai metaskeuazon -and changing,” which looks as if the translator was not

familiar with the Hebrew word, and substituted something in its place. It reads

 Ὠρίωνος - OrionosOrion – in Job 38:31. Turneth the shadow of

death into the morning. “The shadow of death,” the depth of darkness. This

and the following clause do not simply state that the regular interchange of day

and night is in God’s hands, but rather notify that GOD IS THE MORAL

GOVERNOR OF THE WORLD!  He saves men from the utmost dangers,

from the darkness of sin and from the night of ignorance; and, on the other hand,

He sends calamity on those that offend His Law (compare ch.4:13). Maketh

the day dark with night; literally, as the Septuagint - ἡμέραν εἰς νύκτα

συσκοτάζων haemeran eis nukta suskotazon - darkeneth day into night.”

That calleth for the waters of the sea, etc. As judgments are the prophet’s

theme, this expression cannot be an intimation of the working of the natural law

by which the moisture taken up from the sea as cloud returns upon the earth as

rain (compare ch. 9:6). Rather it is an allusion to the Flood and similar

 catastrophes, which are proofs of God’s judicial government of the universe,

when “The Lord will take His zeal as His whole armor and  will arm all creation

to repel His enemies” (Wisdom of Solomon  ch. 5:17).  The Lord is His name. 

Jehovah, the self-existent God, doeth all these marvelous things, and men presume

to skirt His law and think to be unpunished.  (ch. 4:13; Deuteronomy 29:19)





                                    The Message of the Stars (v. 8)


“Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow

of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night: that calleth

for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth:

The Lord is his Name,” This recognition of God amidst the phenomena of

nature is characteristic of Amos. He looked on the Pleiades and Orion, as

they shone radiantly in the heavens, changeless in their relations, calm

amidst human vicissitudes, and constant in diffusing their light upon a

troubled world, and bade men seek Him who created them. He speaks of

night, that “shadow of death,” and reminds his hearers that, though it be

long and fearsome, the light of dawn comes at last, and God turns it into

morning; and again, after the work of the day is done, and tired men want

rest, God draws the curtains, and “makes the day dark with night.” The last

clause is more obscure. Sometimes the waters have been “poured out upon

the earth” in destructive deluge, and this has occurred at the command of

God; but we prefer the application of the prophet’s words to that familiar

and constant display of the Divine power by means of which the waters are

secretly gathered up into the sky, that they may be poured out in showers

of blessing upon the earth. Our text is true of nature; but it is also true of

that of which nature is the symbol and shadow, as we shall endeavor to

show. It reminds us:



HUMAN LIFE. “Seek Him that maketh the seven stars and Orion.” The

words are literally true. Philosophy teaches us to find an adequate cause for

all effects, and science acknowledges that the First Cause eludes its search,

and is beyond its sphere. Revelation declares, “God made the sun to rule by

day, and the moon to rule by night: He made the stars also.” (Genesis 1:16)

More than this primal fact is, however, asserted here. Amos was speaking to

those who saw in the stars more than material lights. His hearers believed in

astrology, which has been prevalent in all ages, from the very dawn of history.

This superstition, which has left its mark on the earliest records of our race, in

the literature of the Egyptians, Chaldeans, Hindus, and Chinese, was not

without effect on the people of Israel, as many passages in Scripture show.

Indeed, it only received its deathblow when the Copernican system was

finally established; for even Kepler would not deny that there was a

connection between the movements of the stars and the fortunes of men.

Now, two constellations so peculiar and brilliant as Pleiades and Orion

naturally had special powers ascribed to them. Thus Rabbi Isaac Israel, in

his remarks on Job 38:31, says, “Some of the stars have operations in

the ripening of fruits, and such is the opening of the Pleiades; and some of

the stars retard and delay the fruits from ripening, and this is the opening of

Orion.” In other words, the Pleiades were associated with the spring, when

Nature was bursting into new life, when she was emitting the sweetest

influences from every blade and flower, when ships which had been shut up

through stress of weather could put out once more to sea. Hence the

question, “Canst thou bind the sweet influence of Pleiades?” — Canst thou

prevent the outpouring of vernal life? Whether you will or not, the change

comes; for it is of God. Similarly, Orion was associated with autumn, when

the earth was throwing off her beauty, and the voyages of the ancient times

came to an end, and frost bound the streams as in fetters of iron. “Canst

thou loose the bands of Orion?” — Canst thou check the storms, and break

up the reign of frost? Now, says Amos, look beyond these constellations to

Him who made them; and when you rejoice in the spring, or dread the

approaching winter, when you are glad over the pleasantness of life, or

faint under its adversity; THINK OF HIM who is above and beyond all

material forces and all visible influences. There is a spring and autumn

known in human experience which have their sources beyond ourselves and

beyond all visible agency; and our hearts rest in the assurance of this.

Compare the lot of two children in dissimilar circumstances — the one

with every comfort and care, as if “born under a lucky star,” and sharing

“the sweet influences of Pleiades;” the other in the drunken home, with

curses temporal and moral on every side. These children do not choose

their lot, they do not appear to deserve treatment so different; yet their

circumstances are not the result of chance nor the decree of blind fate, but

are to be ascribed to Him “who made the seven stars and Orion,” and, as

the Judge of all the earth, He will do right. (Suggest other examples of

seeming unfairness in men’s circumstances.) This Divine revelation in

Scripture affirms of God that He appoints the lot of each, and this with a

view to the training of character, which far outweighs the pleasantness or

the painfulness found in mere circumstances. Adversity will by and by

appear to be but a small thing to him who amidst it proved himself faithful,

and prosperity will seem in the retrospect of little worth to him who,

through his thanklessness and prayerlessness, has failed to “lay hold on

eternal life.” Whatever influences surround us, we are, for our own sakes,

called on to recognize God as overruling them. If we are prosperous, it is

“the Lord who gives power to get wealth;” if we are in adversity, we are

not to blame our luck or our friends, but to seek the comfort and help of

Him “who maketh the seven stars and Orion.”



“He turneth the shadow of death into the morning,” etc. The Hebrew word

translated “shadow of death” almost always means more than natural night,

however black that may be (see references in Job and Psalms). Admitting

this figurative use of the word here, the reference of the prophet would

seem to be to the changes from sorrowfulness to joyfulness, and from

joyfulness to sorrowfulness, which we frequently experience. These are not

dependent on circumstances. The wealthiest men have often said of their

surroundings, “I have no pleasure in them;” while the poor and persecuted

have sometimes made their miserable abodes resound with praise. We may

illustrate this from the life of our Lord. At one time “He rejoiced in spirit”

(Luke 10:21) at another time he was “exceeding sorrowful, even unto death;”

(Matthew 26:38) yet the Father’s hand was recognized in both experiences.

God inspires the children’s songs (Cedarmont Kids - You Tube), and He

gives the cup of agony. What abundant reason we have to praise God for

certain inward changes — the carelessness turned into serious and sad

penitence, and this again into the joyfulness of pardon! To many a weeping

penitent, sitting in darkness, He has come and “turned the shadow of death

into morning.” Others have been in the darkness of doubt. They have cried,

“Why hast thou forsaken me?” They have felt around them for some hand

to help in their dire extremity; At last the sense of Christ’s love has come

home to them, and though their questions are not all answered, they believe

in Him, and enter into rest, and soon they find that “he that believeth does

not walk in darkness, but has the light of life.” (v. 15)   God turns for them

the shadow of death into morning. Soon “the shadow feared of man” will come.

Yet even the darkness of death shall be transformed into the brightness of

heaven; and in the place where “there is no need of the sun or moon to shine”

(Revelation 21:23) because God Himself is the Light thereof, we shall see

how God has forevermore turned the shadow of death into morning.



“calls for the waters of the sea.” They secretly ascend to heaven, and then

descend in refreshing showers. The transformation effected in that

phenomenon is noteworthy. If we pour sea water on flowers, they will die;

but when it is called up into the heavens the pernicious salt is left behind,

the water is purged from its destructiveness, and the curse is made a

blessing. A transforming influence passes over all that comes to us, if it is

caught up to heaven. Suppose prosperity comes to you. It may enervate

and destroy your spiritual life, but if praise to God is associated with it, and

habitual prayer that you may use this for God, you may become by your

very prosperity a more generous, tender-hearted, and Christ-like man. If

adversity is yours, and you take all your troubles before the Lord, they will

be transfigured before you in the light of God’s love and Christ’s

sufferings, and through your valley of Achor you will enter into deeper rest

and nobler hope.  If doubts or temptations try you, they will not curse, but

bless you, if they arouse the earnest prayer, “Lord, help me!” Christ was

never more precious to Thomas than when, after his doubts, he exclaimed,

“My Lord and my God!”   (John 20:28)  But his doubts would have ruined

him had they kept him from the presence of the Lord. Let all your troubles

and joys be wafted, by prayer and praise, into the heaven of God’s presence,

and they shall be poured down upon you in showers of spiritual blessings.


·                     CONCLUSION. If you would know the comfort of the text, you will only

find it in obedience to its first clause, “Seek Him!” “Seek ye the Lord while

he may be found,” (Isaiah 55:6)  “Acquaint now thyself with Him, and be

at peace, thereby good shall come unto thee.”  (Job 22:21)  Then, under

the quiet light of the stars, or in the splendors of sunset and dawn, or watching

the fall of the heaven-sent showers, you will have thoughts of Him who rules

            over all, as of one who through Jesus Christ is your Father and your Friend.


9 “That strengtheneth the spoiled against the strong, so that the

spoiled shall come against the fortress.”  That strengtheneth….

Translate,  That causeth destruction to flash forth upon the strong,

So that destruction cometh upon the fortress.  The idea is that God,

as with a lightening flash smites the strongest man, and no fortress is

a refuge from Him.  Septuagint διαιρῶν συντριμμὸν ἐπὶ ἰσχύν  

Ho diairon suntrimmon epi ischun  Who divideth destruction unto strength.”

The Vulgate, taking the Hebrew verb balag in the sense of lighting up the

countenance, renders, Qui subridet vastitatem super robustum, which

means that the Lord smiles while He brings desolation on the mighty —

a figurative expression denoting His anger at man’s pride, and THE EASE

WITH WHICH HE PUNISHES!  We may add that Rosenmuller agrees with

the Authorized Version in the first clause: "Who strengtheneth the weak against

the strong, and giveth the plunderers power over the fortresses of the strong."




                           The Lord of the Universe (vs. 7-9)


The herdsman of Tekoah was a true poet. His eyes were open to the

beauty and to the splendor of nature; and his heart felt the presence of the

Unseen and Eternal in all the works of His hands, in all His providential

arrangements. More than this, the moral character and rule of the

Omnipotent were very present and very real to him; he felt the force of the

appeal made to the spiritual nature of man, and calling for a life of religious

faith, of practical obedience. There is nothing strained or unnatural in the

striking conjunction in this passage of poetic sensibility with ethical and

religious exhortation.




1. Seen in the creation of the starry host. The Pleiades and Orion are

mentioned as two of the most noticeable and most splendid of the

constellations of the midnight sky.


2. In the alternations of day and night, in sunrise and sunset, in storm and

in eclipse.


3. In the grandeur of the sea, in the torrents of rain, in the floods which

pour their waters over the earth; in a word, in all the processes of nature.


4. In the providential interpositions and the righteous rule of the Most

High, who does according to His will among the inhabitants of the earth.


·         AN INFERENCE AS TO HUMAN CONDUCT. The poet-prophet is

more than a mirror to reflect the visible splendor, the awful forces of the

universe. To him nature has a voice of authority, appealing to the

understanding and to the conscience of the sons of men. There is a

summons to the unrighteous and the irreligious to forsake their ways and

to choose a better path. This summons will take a different form according

to the character, the moral development, of those addressed.


1. There is what may be called the lower view — a God so great will not

suffer iniquity to triumph, or injustice and disobedience to go unpunished.

All are in the hands of the Almighty; and He whose power is so evidently

revealed in the heavens above and on the earth beneath will not fail to

assert His authority over all the creatures of His power. Although

wickedness may prosper for a season, the law of righteousness shall be

maintained and vindicated.


2. There is a higher view — not inconsistent with the other, but presenting

itself to natures more morally cultivated and advanced. Great as God

appears in nature, our conceptions of His excellence are enhanced when we

reflect upon his glorious attributes and his righteous reign. The eternal law

of righteousness administered by Omnipotence demands our lowly

            reverence, deserves our grateful obedience.





                                    The Glory of Religion (vs. 8-9)


Seek Him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow

of death into the morning,” etc. The word reveals two things.



connection is that:


1. Of a Creator. “He maketh the seven stars and Orion.” These

constellations are only given as specimens of all the things He has created in

different parts of the universe. “In the beginning God created the heavens

and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)


2. Of a Governor. “He turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and

maketh the day dark with night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and

poureth them out upon the face of the earth.” The truth taught is this —

that God presides over the revolution of day and night, and the changes of

the seasons, and the fortunes of men. All nature is under His control. “He

maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the

just and on the unjust.”  (Matthew 5:45)


3. Of a Redeemer. “That strengtheneth the spoiled against the strong, so

that the spoiled shall come against the fortress.” The reference is here

undoubtedly to His redemptive work in human history.



“Seek Him.” A phrase of frequent use in the Bible, denoting the duty of

man to attain to the knowledge, the friendship, and the fellowship of the

Eternal. And in this all true religion consists. The pursuit implies:


1. Faith in God’s personal existence. A belief that He is.

2. A consciousness of moral distance from God. We do not seek what we


3. A felt necessity of friendly connection with God.

4. An assurance that such a connection can be obtained.


·                     CONCLUSION. What a grand thing is religion I It is not a thing of mere

doctrine, or ritual, or sect, or party. It is a moral pursuit of “Him that

            maketh the seven stars and Orion,” etc.


In vs. 10-12, the prophet gives further instances of the people’s corruption.


10 “They hate him that rebuketh in the gate, and they abhor him that

speaketh uprightly.” Him that rebuketh in the gate (Isaiah 29:21). The

gate of Eastern cities was the place of public resort (Proverbs 1:21), (for an

idea of what they resent see Ibid. vs. 22-33 – CY – 2013) - either for

business (Deuteronomy 25:7), or the administration of justice (II Samuel 15:2),

or for gossip. So “he that rebuketh in the gate” may be a judge, or a chief,

or a prophet (Jeremiah 17:19; 19:2). It seems better to take the words thus

than to join “in the gate” to “they hate,” with the meaning that those who resort

to the gate — kings, chiefs, judges — hate the prophet’s reproof, for the

following verses show that Amos is referring chiefly to judicial proceedings,

and not to his own mission. Uprightly; literally, perfectly; Vulgate, perfecte;

i.e. without reserve, keeping nothing back.


11 “Forasmuch therefore as your treading is upon the poor, and ye take

from him burdens of wheat: ye have built houses of hewn stone, but ye

shall not dwell in them; ye have planted pleasant vineyards, but ye shall

not drink wine of them.” Therefore. Because ye refuse reproof, and oppress

the poor.  Your treading is upon the poor; ye trample upon. The Hebrew

word boshes is found nowhere else, and is variously explained. Septuagint,

κατεκονδύλιζον katekondulizon -  smote with the fists;” so the Syriac;

Vulgate, diripiebatis, with which the Chaldee agrees. Keil, Schegg, and most

modern commentators explain the word, by a slight dialectical variation, as

equivalent to conculcare. Burdens of wheat; rather, tribute, exactions of

wheat, or presents like enforced “benevolences.” They exacted such gifts

before they would do justice to the poor. Or it may refer to interest for

money or victuals lent, which took the form of presents in order to evade

the Law (Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:37; Deuteronomy 23:19).

Septuagint, δῶρα ἐκλεκτά - dora eklektachosen gifts - Vulgate,

praedam electam,  the Hebrew word bar meaning either “wheat” or “elect.”

Hewn stone. Houses thus built were a mark of luxury and wealth, sun-dried

brick being the usual material employed (compare Isaiah 9:10; Ezekiel 12:5, 7).

Ye shall not dwell in them. This is the punishment of their evil doings, according

to the threat in Deuteronomy 28:30, 39. The people shall be banished and the land

desolated (Micah 6:15; Zephaniah 1:13).


12 “For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: they afflict

the just, they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their

right.” Your punishment is richly deserved, for “I know how many are

your transgressions and how mighty are your sins,” especially, as it follows,

your sins of oppression and injustice. They afflict the just. The

construction is continuous: “afflicters of the just.” Hostes justi (Vulgate);

καταπατοῦντες δίκαιον katapatountes dikaion -  trampling down the just

(Septuagint). They take a bribe. The translation of kopher as “bribe” is

justified, perhaps, by I Samuel 12:3; but the word is elsewhere used for

“ransom,” redemption money paid to escape the consequences of crime

(Proverbs 6:35), in direct opposition to the Law in Numbers 35:31,

which forbade any ransom to be taken for the life of a murderer. The

Septuagint has, λαμβάνοντες ἀλλάγματα  -  lambanontes allagmata

taking wares -  the Vulgate (with which the Syriac agrees), accipientes munus.

Turn aside the poor in the gate from their right; or, bow down the needy

 in the gate, i.e. in the place of judgment (see note on v. 10). Vulgate, paupers

 deprimentes in porta; Septuagint, πένητας ἐν πύλαις ἐκκλίνοντες

penaeta en pulais ekklinontes -  “turning aside the poor in the gates.”

The crime specified is that of wresting judgment in the case of the poor, or

not giving the poor man justice unless he could pay for it (compare Exodus 23:6;

Deuteronomy 16:19).


13 “Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time; for it is an evil time.”

Even while he speaks, the prophet feels that his reproof is useless (compare

Jeremiah 7:27-28; Hosea 4:1, 17). In that time; at such a time as this, the man

who acts wisely holds his peace, because it is a time of moral corruption and of

personal danger. But the prophet cannot restrain his call (compare Ezekiel 33:3).

In Micah 2:3 the “evil time” is one of calamity.




The Contrast Presaging the Conflict (vs. 7-13)


Judgment is coming. Warning has been given. Duty, and the prevailing

derelictions of it, have been pointed out. Here God’s perfections and

Israel’s iniquities are set in juxtaposition, and the collocation is suggestive.

Such incompatibility must lead to collision. It is by God’s character and

ours that our mutual relations and attitudes are shaped. We see here:


  • GOD REVEALING HIMSELF. (vs. 8-9.) God’s work is an

important revelation of Himself. He has written all over it the glorious

lineaments of His character. Each part of it reflects some feature, and

in the whole we see His face. Here He shows Himself:


Ø      In the sphere of creation. He maketh the seven stars and Orion.”

This is a pregnant thought. Alcyone, one of the seven stars, or

Pleiades, is the central orb of the heavens, round which the

others move. It is as it were the heart of the material universe;

and the Creator of it is by implication the CREATOR OF ALL!

 In this fact speak the power and wisdom of the Great Uncaused,

who is the Cause not only of all effects, but of all causes as well.


Ø      In the sphere of providence. And turneth the shadow,” etc.

(vs. 8-9).  We have here three classes of operations. The first was

illustrated in the miraculous light that shone around Paul at his

conversion (Acts 9:3), is seen daily in the rise of the morning sun,

and appears in the turning of the night of adversity into the day

of prosperity. The second was seen in the three hours’ miraculous

darkness at the Crucifixion (Luke 23:44), is seen in the gathering

shades of every night, and in the darkening down into adverse

circumstances of many a life day. The third was seen in the Deluge,

is seen in every shower of rain, and will be seen in future widespread

judgments on the wicked   (v. 9, “Who causeth desolations to flash

on the strong,” God’s judgments are bold, as singling out the strong

and the fortress; swift, as coming on them like the lightning’s flash;

sweeping, as involving them in utter destruction.


Ø      In the sphere of redemption. God scatters spiritual night. He

illuminates the darkness of the soul. He makes men light in

the Lord. He gives them the inheritance of the saints in light.

He also judicially blinds, by leaving impenitent souls to the

natural effects of wrongdoing; and HE CASTS INTO OUTER

DARKNESS AT LAST.  In all these things we behold power —

power here as goodness, power there as severity; but power

everywhere as resistless and Divine.


  • ISRAEL REVEALING HERSELF. (v. 12.) This is a sad apocalypse.

In many transgressions and great sins Israel’s many-sided and deep

corruption comes out. Particulars are:


Ø      As unjust. Injustice is a natural form for the sin, which is at

bottom SELFISHNESS, to take. It was an especially prevalent

form, moreover, among the Hebrew people. From Jacob down

the sordid race has cheated the strong and imposed on the weak.

Action is in a sense the fruit of character, and answers to the tree.

God’s grace is to convert the thorn into the fir tree, and the briar

into the myrtle tree; but man’s sin works the converse process,

and changes the sweet “tree of righteousness” into bitter

wormwood. Casting “righteousness down to earth” is another

aspect of the same charge. Righteousness ought to rule. Its proper

place is the throne of human life. But Israel had dethroned and

cast it down to the earth, and set injustice, a usurper, in its place.


Ø      As oppressive. (vs. 11-12.) The oppression suffered by Israel had

done nothing to produce detestation of the thing. What other

nations had inflicted on them in this way, they were only too

ready to inflict, with interest, on each other as they had opportunity.

Humiliation does not always prepare for exaltation, nor poverty

for wealth, nor the endurance of injustice for power. The freed

slave will often make the very worst master, and the erewhile

victim of wrong the most outrageous inflictor of it (Proverbs

19:10; 30:22-23).


Ø      As venal. “Who take a bribe.” They did injustice, not only in their

private, but in their public, capacity. They not only plundered the

public themselves, but made a profit by helping others to do the

same. A dishonest man will make a corrupt magistrate. He will

use for his own aggrandizement whatever power he gains.


Ø      As impious. (vs.10,12.) As cowardice appeared in oppressing the

poor, so did impiety in oppressing the righteous. Much of what

the righteous suffer is due to the hatred of righteousness by the

wicked. They hate the thing itself, they hate it as a standing

rebuke to their own ways (I John 3:12), and their antipathy

invariably exhibits itself as it has occasion.



Given what God is and what Israel is, and the Divine course of treatment

may easily be anticipated.


Ø      God will disappoint their schemes of self-aggrandizement. (v.11.)

Their labor and pains and sin would prove in the end to have been

thrown away. Their ill-gotten gains would never be enjoyed. The

vineyards and houses, in which they had invested them, would,

after having been acquired at great pains, be lost again before

they had even begun to be used. Gain gotten by injustice is seldom

abiding, and never remunerative. The one condition of getting

satisfaction out of earthly good is to ACQUIRE IT



Ø      He will leave them unrebuked  (v.13). The prophets and the wise

WOULD  BE SILENT!  This would be a great calamity. It would

be followed by an INCREASE OF SIN,  involving in turn an

aggravation of punishment. It would mean abandonment to fate;

for when God ceases to strive, A MAN ‘S DOOM IS SEALED.

(Genesis 6:3; John 6:44).  It is the Physician discontinuing his

treatment because the hand of death is on the patient. The SINNER



 God saying, “Ephraim is joined to his idols: let him alone.”

It is the one spiritual case that is utterly desperate.




                                    A Time to be Silent (v. 13)


“Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time; for it is an evil time.”

These words describe an evil time, and specify one of its most evil features.

It is a time of culminating wickedness, of imminent destruction, and, as

related to both, of DIVINE NON-INTERVENTION.   There is a time to keep

silence” (Ecclesiastes 3:7) as well as “a time to speak.” And that time,

as pointed out by characteristic features, was at hand in this case. Israel,

which in vain had been pled with and plagued, would then be SEVERELY

LEFT ALONE.  . Her victims would suffer in silence. Her prophets would cease

to expostulate. God, in judgment, would cease to strive for her restraint or

turning. In AN AWFUL AND UNNATURAL CALM she would pass the

moments before there broke on her THE STORM OF DOOM.   And the

dawning of this “dies irae”- DAY OF WRATH - was almost come. As to the

particular characteristic of this day, note that God’s servants are silent:



PURPOSE. This will often happen. Seasonable speech is a valuable thing.

But men are not infallible, and occasions are often puzzling, and the right

thing to say is hard to find.


1. Silence is sometimes the resource of feeling too deep for words. There

are unspeakable things. “Speech is but broken light on the depth of the

unspoken.” The finest thoughts, the deepest feelings, are unuttered often

because they cannot be expressed in words. As a noted Shakespearian

character says —


“Silence is the perfectest herald of joy:

I were but little happy if I could say how much.”


And the sentiment is not uncommon. “Does the wind write what it sings in

those sounding leaves above our heads? Does the sea write the moaning of

its surge? Nothing is fine that is written; the divinest in man’s heart never

issues forth. The instrument is flesh, the note is fire. What would you have?

Between what one feels and what one expresses, there is the same space as

between the soul and the twenty-six letters of the alphabet; that is to say,

the Infinite. Can you on a rosewood flute give forth the harmony of the

spheres?” (Raffaelle).


2. Silence is often more impressive than any speech.


“The silence of pure innocence

Persuades, when speaking fails.”


So also do the silence of deep feeling and of strong passion, uttering

“speech in their dumbness, language in their very gesture.” Christ but

looked on the recreant Peter after his miserable desertion and denial. Yet

that silent look, as the denied One passed him in the hall, was eloquent of

wounded love, and cut the denier more keenly than any words. No word

was uttered on the cross where the dying thief was brought to faith. The

God-like fortitude, the ineffable meekness of the Saviour, suffering silently

the devilish malice of sin, — it was that broke His heart and won His free

allegiance. In this dumbness was speech to the power of which articulate

speech admits of no comparison. The gift of being “eloquently silent” is

one that is not unworthy of more general cultivation. To Israel the sudden

silence of the prophets, after centuries of expostulation, would tell its own

startling tale. It would indicate discouragement and disgust, and duplicate

to their minds the “let him alone” (Hosea 4:17) of Divine desertion at a

similar crisis. And this unequivocal proof that they are given up might bring

the tardy repentance which all else had failed to stir. When communications

are broken off, the dream of a lasting peace is over.  (Consider this in

reference to God and modern man who is in a state of denial!  CY - 2022)

The patient will believe that death is at hand when the physician turns away

and refuses to prescribe.  JESUS CHRIST is the GREAT PHYSICIAN. 


3. Silence is always better than haphazard speech. When a man knows not

what to say he should guard against saying he knows not what. “Silence,

when nothing need be said, is the eloquence of discretion.” Peter would

have escaped some blunders and rebukes if he had followed this rule. But it

was when “he wist not what to say” (Mark 9:6) that he was given to

saying most. Such speech is more likely to be inappropriate than silence,

and being inappropriate there are many more ways in which it can work

evil. Hence the numerous Scripture references to the tongue, the power of

it, the difficulty of governing it, and the danger of it if unruly. Indeed, so

liable are men to err and so specially liable to err in speech as compared

with overt act, that the proper government of the tongue is made the

highest religious act (James 3:2).





1. Sometimes men will refuse to listen. The Jews did in the beginning of the

gospel. Faithfully and firmly Stephen pressed the truth home; but they

“stopped their ears, and ran upon him” (Acts 7:57). Here was a case for

silence. Speech, had it been possible, would have been unheeded. Those

men, with murder in their hearts, and their fingers in their ears, would listen

to no words. With Israel now things had come to a like pass. Their ears

were stopped, and their hearts within them were set to do iniquity.

(Has America reached this stage when a prevailing attitude is:  DON’T

PREACH TO ME”.  For such a state of matters the appropriate measure

is the silence which the prophet predicts.  When men will not hear, bawling

into an ear that is deaf or stopped is effort thrown away, and unworthy

of common sense (Matthew 10:14; Mark 6:11There are many such cases.


2. Sometimes evil has gone so far that words can be of no avail. God’s

Spirit will not always strive. (Genesis 6) With the antediluvians by Noah’s

preaching he strove above a century, but when iniquity reached a certain stage

he ceased, and his ultima ratio (the final argument) was the Deluge. He strove

with Saul for years, but when insensibility and hardness became confirmed,

communications were broken off; and whether by dreams, or by Urim,

or by prophets, God spoke no more (1 Samuel 28:6). He strove with Israel

during the ministry of our Lord, but they would not listen to His word,

and at last He was silent, sad the doomed people were left to die

(Luke 19:42). God ceases to speak when He is ready to strike. Expostulation

would be an anachronism (out of place) when execution is imminent. The point

at which He will give up the persistent wrong doer and withdraw all

deterrent measures NONE CAN FIX!  But there is such a point, and, to each

of the ungodly, the danger of passing it (Proverbs 1:26; 29:1). Every hour we

continue in rebellion is cutting down our chance of being longer striven

with. Those who speak for God to men are sometimes conscious that the time

to be silent has come.  The sinner seems to have reached A FINAL FIXITY.

In the nature of things he cannot be expected now to change. Paul at a certain

stage concluded the Jew to be incorrigible, and turned deliberately to the

Gentile (Acts 13:46; 28:28). And like Paul, when it becomes clear that further

dealing with men must be barren of result, the servant of Christ will transfer

his strength from the hopeless to some hopeful form of effort.




no remote contingency. Such times are cropping up continually. Under

certain circumstances speech:


1. May do harm to men. The truth of God and the sinful heart are

uncongenial. Men love the darkness and hate the light. The truth forbidding

all lust is actually through the corruption of our nature the occasion of

stirring it up (Romans 7:7-9). This, of course, is no reason for

withholding it or suppressing our testimony to it. But there are

circumstances and moods in which this tendency attains its maximum of

strength, and it will then be prudent to keep silence “even from good.” It is

as “fishers of men” that we speak the truth, and we must justify our claim

to the title by presenting the truth in the time and way in which it is most

likely to tell. If we “testify” at random, and uniformly, in all companies and

on all occasions, we shall oftener harm than help the people whom we wish

to serve.


2. It may do harm to the truth. There is such a thing as “casting pearls

before swine” (Matthew 7:6) to no better purpose than the prostitution

of sacred things The difference between truth profaned and necessarily

inoperative, and the same truth listened to and the power of God, is often

the difference between the untimely presentation of it and the timely. To

force it on men when they are out of humor and will not give it a fair

hearing is only to bring it into contempt — to lessen its dignity in the eyes

of others, and diminish its chance of winning their acceptance. The truth is

meant to sanctify and save, and we must be careful to do nothing that

would place it at a disadvantage in the work.


3. It may do harm to ourselves without any compensating advantage. “He

that reproveth a scorner getteth himself shame” (Proverbs 9:7) - the shame of

aggravating the case and bringing needless evil on himself. No Scottish

Covenanter was called on to enter the camp and preach the gospel of good

will and peace to the bloodthirsty troopers of Claverhouse or Dalziel. The

thing would have been good in itself, and was deeply needed, but to

attempt it meant not merely failure, but death. If there was no one else to

do it, this work must be left undone. There is room for judgment and

discretion in timing and planning the work of winning souls. The most

acceptable service and the most useful we can give to God is our

“reasonable service.”  (Romans 12:1)  We are not to “count our lives dear

to us” in comparison with His work; but it must appear that the work demands

the sacrifice, and will benefit by it, before we are at liberty to give up the life

which we hold in trust for God. Pearls are to be withheld from swine for

this among other reasons, “lest they turn again and rend you.” The

characters of the “time to keep silence” deserve attention no less than those

of the “time to speak,” (Ecclesiastes 3:7) and he has mastered both who

rightly divides the Word of life.


a.      Silence is sometimes a Divine form of appeal.

b.      In that case it is probably the last appeal.

c.       Disregarded, it is the lull before the storm.


14 “Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the LORD, the

God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken.”He repeats his loving

summons to repentance, as in vs. 4, 6, showing that their only hope of safety

lay in AMENDMENT OF LIFE (compare Zephaniah 2:3). Seek good, and

not evil. Use that diligence and zeal in pursuing what is good which you have

 hitherto shown in the pursuit of evil.   The Lord, the God of hosts, shall be

with you, as ye have spoken; or, as ye say. The Israelites fancied that, owing

to their covenant relation to God, He would be always with them and ready

to help them under any circumstances. Their prosperity under Jeroboam II,

as Calmet remarks seemed an argument in their favor, proving that God

blessed them, and that they had no cause for fear (compare Jeremiah 7:4-7;

Micah 3:11; Matthew 3:9; John 8:39). But really God’s help and favor

were conditioned by their obedience.




                                                Religion (v. 14)


“Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the Lord, the God of

hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken.” From these words two things

may be inferred concerning religion.


·                     IT IMPLIES A SPECIFIC PURSUIT. “Seek good, and not evil.” Good

and evil are both in the world; they work in all human souls; they explain

all history.


1. They imply a standard of right. By what do we determine the good and

evil in human life? The revealed will of God. What accords with that will is

good, what disagrees with it is evil.


2. Their object is a human pursuit. There are those who pursue evil; they

follow it for:


a.      worldly wealth,

b.      animal pleasure,

c.       secular aggrandizement.


There are those who pursue good; and their grand question is, “Lord, what

wilt thou have me to do?”


3. The pursuit of good is the specific effort of religion. Good in thought,

spirit, aim, habit, as embodied in the life of Christ. To get good requires

strenuous, persistent, devout, prayerful effort.  (Diligence:  exercise thyself -

CY - 2022)




1. The enjoyment of true life. “That ye may live.” Without goodness you

cannot really live: goodness is life. Everlasting goodness is everlasting life.

“This is life eternal, to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ

whom thou has sent.” (John 17:3).


2. The enjoyment of the Divine friendship. “So the Lord, the God of hosts,

shall be with you.” What a benediction is this! “The Lord God of hosts,”

the Almighty Creator, Proprietor, and Governor of the universe to be with

us, to guide, guard, beautify existence! “I will walk among you,” says He;

            “I will be your God, and ye shall be my people.”  (Leviticus 26:12)


15 “Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the

gate: it may be that the LORD God of hosts will be gracious unto

the remnant of Joseph.”  Reverse your former conduct, undo what ye have

done (v. 10). This verse emphasizes the preceding; hating and loving are more real

and hearty than mere seeking. The Septuagint makes this clause to be what the

people said, Ον τρόπον εἴπατεμεμισήκαμεν τὰ πονρὰ καὶ ἠγαπήσαμεν τὰ καλά -

On propon eipate, memisaekamen ta ponaera, kai aegapaesamen ta kala -

As ye said, We have hated evil, and loved good.” Establish judgment. Maintain

justice in your tribunals (in contrast to v. 7);  then it may be that the Lord will

have mercy on you or some of you.  The remnant of Joseph; implying that

only a few of them will be saved after this heavy chastisement, which points

to the final ruin of their city and nation. The prophet speaks of the “remnant

of Joseph” instead of Ephraim, to remind them of their forefather, who

received the patriarchal blessing of Jacob, for whose sake this remnant

should be spared (compare Isaiah 6:13; 10:21-23; Joel 2:32; Romans 11:4-5).



The Nation with which God will Dwell (vs. 14-15)


The opening words of this presage imply a history. Israel “not only did evil,

but they sought it out and the occasions of it” (Pusey). They gave evil their

special attention, never failing to do it when they had opportunity, and

seeking opportunities when none presented themselves. (Contrast this

with the days before the Flood when God said that “....the wickedness of man

was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his

heart was only evil continually.”  - Genesis 6:5)  In fact, they did it

with an amount of method and pains which they are now called upon to

direct into a new channel, and apply to the doing of good.



EXPRESSION OF HIS FAVOR. It was the original, and remains the

normal condition of human life.  Accordingly, Adam left God’s

presence and hid even before he was driven out of the garden. In losing

the DIVINE LIKENESS  he had lost all relish or fitness for the

DIVINE PRESENCE.  The one could be recovered only with the other.

Born from above, and made partakers of the Divine nature, we are in



1. It is the restoration of acceptance. Separation from God is penal. God

“drove out the man” and we remain “afar off” because of sin committed.

He will dwell with us again only when our sin is put away. The king will

not consort with rebels as such. He will meet them only as subjects and

friends. The condition of access to His presence is the equitable recovery of

His forfeited favor. In the promise to dwell with Israel was the implied

promise to restore them to His favor.


2.  In reunion with God these two occasions of unhappiness are removed.

By regeneration the old nature is crucified, and the new one is set by faith in


and so its ideal of a happy state. Hence the Christian’s aspiration is summed

up in one idea to “be with Christ, which is far better.”  (Philippians 1:23)


      3.  It is the restoration of happiness. “Thou will shew me

the path of life:  in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand

there are PLEASURES FOR EVERMORE.”  (Psalm 16:11) Sin

means loss on the one side and infliction on the other. Its guilt

separates from God, with the result that OUR BEING IS

INCOMPLETE!   Sins corruption introduces:


Ø      disorder among our own powers, and

Ø      disease in each, and so

Ø      unrest and misery become INEVITABLE (Isaiah 48:22; 57:20).




29:45-46.) It is implied in God’s offer to be with them under certain

circumstances, that He was not with them then.


1. He was not with them in worship. God’s presence at the Jewish national

worship was pledged (Exodus 20:24). But the worship must be His

worship, conducted according to His appointment. This it now was not.

Where not positively idolatrous or profane, the worship of Israel was

utterly formal and hollow. In such worship the Divine presence is not

desired and is not enjoyed (Isaiah 1:13-15). The worship must be real,

the heart contrite, in which God promises to be present. Israel failed of

God’s promised presence by failing to claim it on the appointed terms.


2. He was not with them in war. For centuries He had been (Judges

6:16), and victory attended their armies (Joshua 24:12, 18; 1 Chronicles

17:21). Nothing could withstand them. The nations of Canaan,

in whose sight they had felt as grasshoppers, were subdued before them.

And God had explicitly connected their victories with His presence and help

(Exodus 17:11, 14; Psalm 44:1-3). But there came a time of which

the psalmist had to say, “Thou hast cast off and put us to shame, and goest

not forth with our armies” (ibid. ch. 44:9). The conditions on which the

Divine promise of help in the field was suspended were violated or ignored,

and God left them to fight with the arm they preferred to His.


3. He was not with them in their daily walk. They did not seek Him nor

want Him, nor were they fit to be near Him. The graces to which His

presence is congruous, the means by which His presence is secured, were all

absent, and so they were a nation given up of God and forsaken (Isaiah

2:6; Jeremiah 7:29). He no longer dwelt with them, nor met them, nor

directed them, nor spoke to them. He became, as He does to all under like

conditions, “a God afar off, and not a God near at hand;” and the journey

of their national existence, begun in such goodly company, was left to be

finished alone.




withdrawal was the natural reply to Israel’s forsaking. His resumption of

relations would synchronize with their return to righteousness.


1. Evil must be rejected. This duty is laid down in three degrees. It is not to

be sought, nor done, nor loved. It had been all three. It could cease to be

the one only by ceasing to be the others also. The seeking implies that the

love and the doing have gone before. The love guarantees that the doing

and seeking shall follow in due course. The way to break off’ from evil is

to be utterly separate. The least link of connection will develop into a

mighty chain.


2. Good must be chosen. This is dutiful. Duty has a positive side still more

important than its negative one. Mere avoidance of what is wrong would

be a colorless thing. God’s Law is not merely a system of restrictions, but

a system of commands. There must be actual doing of what is right, with a

knowledge that it is right, and because it is right. And this is no more

dutiful than natural The qualities that turn away from evil turn instinctively

to good. Indeed, the two things are so antagonistic that the love of the one

and the hatred of the other are only different aspects of the same feeling.

And in this choosing of God, again, there are three phases or degrees

answering to those in the avoidance of sin.


a.      It is to be loved, as the fairest and most amiable thing on earth.

b.      It is to be done, as the only thing that is fitting and right.

c.       It is to be sought, as a thing important and desirable in the

            highest possible degree.


3. Justice must be done. “Established in the gate.” Unjust judgment was a

prevalent and crying evil. The Jewish character was prone to it, and the

experience of it at the hands of strangers only strengthened the tendency.

Perversion of justice is one of the most constant elements in natural

corruption everywhere. A corrupt man makes a dishonest trader, an unjust

judge, and an oppressive master. Fair and upright dealing between man and

man has no natural basis, unless in the fear of God. The fear of God, on the

other hand, will naturally coordinate itself with regard for man. The man

who “does justly and loves mercy” is one who “walks humbly with God.”

(Micah 6:8)



BEING “THE REMNANT OF JOSEPH.” This form of expression is



1. The remnant. This implies weeding out by previous judgment. Israel had

sinned long, and in punishment had been almost decimated. This was

necessary as a matter of justice. Until it had been done they could not be

saved. Sinners, individually and collectively, must receive for the wrong

they have done. God’s original promises were made to Israel as a nation,

and not to individuals, and the nation in His eye was the remnant left after

His judgments had run their course. To this remnant hope of deliverance is

here held out as a Brand plucked from the fire; a thing on which, justice

having been vindicated, mercy may now, and not till now, be shown.


2. The remnant of Joseph. This means Israel as the covenant people.

Joseph was Israel’s favorite, “the man that was separate from his

brethren,” and the recipient of the promise (Genesis 48:4) given to

Abraham (ibid. 17:8) and repeated to Isaac and Jacob. Accordingly,

the “remnant of Joseph” is equivalent to the “remnant according to the

election of grace” (Romans 11:5). God never forgets His covenant,

never fails to give its promised blessings, never gives them to the covenant

people, but as covenanted mercies. On the broad ground of creature-hood

his general mercies are distributed, but special mercies are on the narrower

basis of a spiritual relation. All wherein we are made to differ from others is

the gift of a God in covenant, and the story of providence is at bottom the

story of grace (Romans 8:32, 28).





                                    The Great Alternative (vs. 14-15)


The coincidence between religion and morality is brought very strikingly

before us in such passages as these. How different are such appeals as

these, made by the prophet in the name of the Lord, from the requirements

of merely formal religion! The highest conception of good is revealed, the

noblest standard of right is exhibited; and all the sanctions furnished by the

authority and the loving kindness of the Eternal are brought to bear upon

human nature to induce to consecration and obedience.





1. Man’s emotional nature impels him to adopt an object of supreme love.

Human affection may be diffused or it may be concentrated, it may be

feeble or it may be intense. But in any case it exists and acts as a principle

of the moral life.


2. Man’s voluntary and practical nature requires an object of supreme

quest and endeavor. We seek what we love, we avoid what we hate.




and not a fictitious or conventional distinction. It would be as reasonable to

deny the distinction between straight and crooked, between light and

darkness, as that between moral good and moral evil. The distinction is

vital and eternal, connected with the “nature of things,” with the attributes

and character of God, with the constitution of man. The choice between

pleasure and pain, between worldly prosperity and adversity, is as nothing

compared with this choice. The appeals of revelation, from the beginning

to the end of the Bible, urge men to choose the good in preference to the

evil. There are doubtless inducements to another choice; but this remains

the choice enforced by reason, by conscience, by God.




CONDUCES TO MAN’S WELFARE. The inducements offered to adopt

a life of selfishness and of pleasure are many and powerful; there are

“pleasures of sin for a season.” The way of virtue and religion is a steep

and rugged path. Yet it yields a deep and pure satisfaction not to be found

in the ways, the broad and primrose paths, of sin. We are not called upon

to balance pleasures. The voice of right, of God, is authoritative, and

demands obedience without hesitation or calculation. Yet God promises

such as listen to and obey His voice that He will “be with” them, that He will

be “gracious unto” them, and that they shall “live.”


In verses 16-17, the retribution for their incorrigible iniquity is

announced. For “they that would not be reformed by that correction,

wherein he dallied with them, shall feel a judgment worthy of God” (Wisdom

of Solomon - 12:26).


16 “Therefore the LORD, the God of hosts, the LORD, saith thus;

Wailing shall be in all streets; and they shall say in all the

highways, Alas! alas! and they shall call the husbandman to

mourning, and such as are skilful of lamentation to wailing.”

Therefore. The prophet returns to what was said in v.13

about the uselessness of reproof; vs.14 and 15 being a kind of

parenthetical exhortation which his love for his nation forced from him.

“Jehovah, the God of hosts, the Lord,” Adonai, saith what follows, these

solemn titles being used to add solemnity, certainty, and weight to the

announcement. Wailing; misped, the death wail.Streets; broad places;

πλατείαις plateiais -  (Septuagint); plateis - (Vulgate). Highways; the

narrower streets; ὁδοῖς hodois - (Septuagint); in cunctis quae foris sunt

(Vulgate).  Everywhere in town and country shall the wail be heard. Alas! alas!

ho! ho! This is THE DEATH WAIL -  (compare Jeremiah 22:18), which

should sound abroad when Samaria was besieged and taken. They shall call

the husbandman to mourning. The husbandman shall be called from his

labor in the fields to mourn for a calamity in his house. Pusey thinks the

mourning is for his occupation gone, his tillage now only furnishing food

for the enemy; but the context involves the notion of death. And such as

are skilful of lamentation to wailing; literally, proclaim wailing to such,

etc. These are the hired mourners, both male and female, who sang

mournful songs at deaths (compare II Chronicles 35:25; Jeremiah 9:17;

Matthew 9:23).


17 “And in all vineyards shall be wailing: for I will pass through thee,

saith the LORD.”  Vineyards. The place of mirth and gladness (Isaiah 16:10).

I will pass through thee. A terrible echo of the last plague of Egypt

(Exodus 12:12), when God will not “pass over” thee but treat thee as Egypt,

and “pass through” to smite and punish (Nahum 1:12; compare Ezekiel




The Track of the Destroyer (vs. 16-17)


Each name of God is a guarantor of His action. It expresses a character, or

relation, or operation, in which He thereby reveals Himself. The

multiplication of His names and titles here is a cumulative argument for the

sureness of the matter revealed. He who is    GOD OF HOSTS or the



whom to decide is to act, and to will is to accomplish. Of

the deliverance so emphasized observe:



APOSTATE WILL BE VAIN. The possibility of a happy end, by the

grace of God, to Israel’s sin and troubles is held out in the previous

verse. Yet here the falling of the judgments denounced is assumed to

 be INEVITABLE.  Paul declares that it is impossible to restore to repentance

those who might fall away from a high degree of spiritual attainment (Hebrews

6:4-6).  The apostate is a hopeless case:


Ø      Because he loves sin more than other men. They love it knowing

nothing better, but he does so with experimental knowledge of the way of

peace. He loves it under a less impulse than they, and in the face of

stronger deterrents than they, and must therefore love it more than they.

The fuel that kindles with the least fire, and burns in spite of most water,

is clearly the most inflammable.


Ø      Because he is harder than other men. The strain is proportioned to

the wrench. All sin hardens, and hardens in proportion as we are active

and resolute in it. Sinning against more light, and more deterrent influence

than others, the apostate’s sin involves a more decided act of will, and

so a more violently hardening effect. The more firmly the branding-iron is

applied, the more deeply it scars. The more violently the moral sense is

sinned against, the more the organ is indurated and injured.


Ø      Because his day of grace will be shorter than that of other men.

The only chance of men’s turning at all is GOD’S STRIVING

WITH THEM!   This He does with all men during a longer or shorter

period. In the case of the ante-diluvians the striving was for a hundred

and twenty years (Genesis 6:3). In the case of Jerusalem it was three

years (Matthew 23:39). In the case of Saul, King of Israel, it was till

within about seven years of his death (I Samuel 18:12). In the case of

many it is during the entire life (Matthew 20:6-9). Thus each man has

his day of grace, during which God strives with him to bring him to

repentance. In the nature of the case the day of grace for the apostate

must be far advanced. He has been more and longer striven with than

other men, and so is presumably nearer the limit beyond which the

process does not go.



I will pass through the midst of thee;” i.e. as elsewhere (Exodus 12:12)

in judgment. The language is a threat. God, so far from dwelling with them,

as under other circumstances He was ready to do (v. 14), would pass

through them in wrath and destroying power. Underlying the announcement

of this alternative is the fact:


Ø      That compromise is impossible with God. HE WILL SAVE or

HE WILL DESTROY.   There is no half-way house between the

good of His promise and the evil of His threat. He can yield nothing

and abate nothing of either. He will come as a Friend to abide and bless

unspeakably, or He will pass through as an invading Foe, making

desolation in His track.


Ø      That the incentive to repentance must be double-edged. There are

people who must be led, and others who must be driven. “The mercies

of God” (Lamentations 3:22-23; Romans 1:12) are the strongest motive

power with some minds, whilst “the terrors of the Lord” (II Corinthians

5:11) are most potent with others. The Divine machinery of impulsion, to

be perfect in itself and for its purpose, must include both. Hence men are

plied with each in turn and often with both together (John 3:36) in

connection with the salvation which they ultimately embrace. Israel’s

case would not be abandoned as hopeless until both MENACE

 and PROMISE had made their contribution to the work of its




The connection between man and the creation is very close. The judgment

on Israel would mean EVIL:


Ø      In the fields. They would not be fertile as heretofore. Their crops

would fail to grow, or be blighted before they could be gathered

(ch.4:7).  Enemies would devastate the country and destroy the fruit

of the ground.  Rapacious officials would confiscate the earnings of

honest industry. In each calamity, much more in all together, was

enough to quench the joy of harvest, and cause the

 husbandman to mourn.


Ø      In the vineyards. The whole food of the people, the corn, the wine

together, would be swept away. The grape gathering was a proverbial

occasion of joy (Isaiah 16:10). But with no vintage to gather, or no

chance to gather it for the lawful owner, the “vintage shouting”

would cease, and for the usual singing in the vineyards would be

substituted A UNIVERSAL WAIL!


Ø      In the streets. God made the country, and man made the town.”

And the human depends ON THE DIVINE!   Trade and commerce

draw from agriculture their chief materials, and so when it fails they fail

with it. When the husbandman has cause to weep there can be no dry

eye in the community. The wail that begins in the fields, and spreads

through the vineyards, will rise to A MIGHTY ROAR WHEN


HERD AND LAMENT TOGETHER.  (There will be no

Demonstrations in hell along the lines of:  OCCUPY HELL –

CY – 2013)




Ø      This is universal. In all “streets and vineyards”; etc. The judgment

affecting all classes in the community, all should MOURN!


Ø      It is in concert. Men would call their fellows to lamentation. Not as

individuals merely, but as a community, they sinned and suffer, and so

as a community they should wail.  (Transpose this into any

American community – CY – 2013)


Ø      It is worked up. “And lamentation to those skilled in lamenting.”

The mourning would not be left to take any form that happened. It

would be appointed and organized, and then observed according to

program. ALL this implies an intelligent and vivid idea of


 however long despised, will make themselves to be understood and

respected at last. In hell there is no UNAPPRECIATION or

MISAPPLICATION of the nature and strength of DIVINE

RETRIBUTION; and on earth appreciation and application



In the last ten verses, vs. 18-27, the prophet enforces the threat by denouncing

woe on those that trust to their covenant relation to God, expecting the day

when He would punish the heathen for their sakes, and thinking that their

external, heartless worship was acceptable to Him.


18 “Woe unto you that desire the day of the LORD! to what end is it

for you? the day of the LORD is darkness, and not light.”  The day of the

Lord. Any crisis in the nation’s history is so called WHEN GOD INTERPOSES

TO PUNISH and CORRECT.   To our minds it looks forward to THE FINAL

JUDGMENT!   It is often mentioned by the prophets (e.g. Isaiah 2:12; “and He

 shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it” 13:6, 9; Joel 2:1, “The Lord…..

executeth His word” – v.11; 3:16; Zephaniah 1:7,14) as a time when

the heathen should be judged, all the enemies of Israel defeated,

and when Israel herself was exalted to the highest pitch of prosperity

and dominion. Without any regard to the moral condition affixed to the

realization of these expectations (see Joel 2:32), the  people “desired”

the appearance of this day, thus foolishly confirming  themselves

in their sinful life and false security. Some think scoffers are intended,

but the context shows that the persons signified are sincere but

mistaken believers in the safety of Israel’s covenant position. To what end

is it for you? the day of the Lord is darkness; Why would ye have the day

of the Lord? IT IS DARKNESS!   Why do ye, such as ye are, want this day

to come? Ye know not what ye ask. It will be the very contrary to your

expectations; it will be darkness, and not light, tribulation and misery, not

joy and triumph for you (compare Micah 7:8).



19 “As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into

the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him.”

Amos explains the dangers of this judgment day by illustrations

drawn from pastoral life, equivalent to the rushing from Charybdis into

Scylla. Every place is full of danger — the open country, the shelter of the





                                    Selfishness in Terror (v. 19)


“As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the

house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him.” The

Israelites rested their hope of deliverance from every kind of foreign

danger upon their outward connection with the covenant made with their

forefathers; hence many put their trust in the days spoken of in the context,

when Jehovah would judge all the heathen, expecting that He would then in

all probability raise Israel to might and dominion. All this was simple

delusion, the delusion of selfishness; for when Jehovah would appear to

punish the nations, Amos says they would be so panic-struck as to be

confounded in their efforts to escape. Running from the lion, they would

fall into the jaws of the bear; or fleeing into a house, they would be met by

a serpent that would bite them. The passage illustrates selfishness in terror.

Its characteristic is that in seeking protection from one danger it rushes

into another. This is often seen:


·                     IN COMMERCIAL LIFE. A selfish man in trade often finds himself

running down the hill of insolvency, and ruthless bankruptcy appears

before him as a lion ready to destroy him. What does he do? Where does

he seek protection? Perhaps in escape. But he is apprehended, and he

finds he has fled from “a lion” to “a hear,” enters the house where the

“serpent” of enraged justice fastens on him. Or perhaps he resorts to

forgery. Here he is detected, and the same result is experienced. He has

fled from the lion only to rush into the jaws of the bear.


·                     IN SOCIAL LIFE. In few social circles are men not to be found who in

some way or other commit a wrong against their members. Indeed, in

family life it is so. Children do some injury to their parents, and parents to

their children, husbands to their wives, and wives to their husbands. After

the commission of the deed, selfish terror is awakened, and they fabricate

falsehoods in order to escape the danger. The falsehood is detected, and

then it is felt that the man has only fled from the lion to the bear. He has

run for protection where he has found the “serpent.”


·                     IN RELIGIOUS LIFE. Men get convinced of sin, their consciences

are roused, and hell appears before them as a ravenous lion, which they

endeavor to escape; and they fly for protection to what? To selfish

prayers, selfish sacrifices, selfish performances; but to attempt to escape

from hell by selfish efforts is only running from the lion to the bear. “He

that saveth his life shall lose it.”  (Matthew 16:25)


·                     CONCLUSION. This subject is capable of endless illustrations. It is an

eternal truth that he who seeks protection from selfish fear only rushes

from one danger into another. There is no protection for a soul but in self-

renunciation, in the entire consecration of self to the worship and service of

the great God.


20 “Shall not the day of the LORD be darkness, and not light? even

very dark, and no brightness in it?” The character of the day of the Lord

is enforced with reiterated earnestness (v. 18) by an appeal to the conscience

of the hearers.  Do you not feel in your inmost hearts that in the case of such

guilt as yours the Lord can visit but to punish?


The Day of the Lord (v. 18)


This is a common expression in the prophets, and its meaning is well defined. It is



  • To the day of active Divine intervention on earth. (Isaiah 2:12;

Jeremiah 46:10; Obadiah 1:15.) There are periods which God signalizes

by special doings. Long quiescent, He becomes conspicuously active.

He intervenes in human affairs with unusual emphasis:


Ø      Judgments often menaced are sent.

Ø      Sinners long borne with are punished.

Ø      The godly, for a time imposed on, are delivered.

Ø      Abuses, the growth of centuries, are dealt with on their merits,

and swept away.


Such a period is called “the day of the Lord” because it is THE


 God not only strikes, but shows His hand.  (See Ezekiel – Study

of God’s Use of The Word Know – this web site – CY – 2013)


  • To the day of final judgment. All others foreshadow, lead up to,

culminate and lose themselves in this. The day of the Lord had already

become the name for every day of judgment, leading on to the last day.

This is the day of the Lord in a unique sense. It is unique as

regards universality. It will see dealt with, not individuals merely, or

nations even, but THE ENTIRE RACE (Matthew 25:31). It is unique

in the matter of thoroughness. There will be inquisition as to each

 person, and as to EVERY ACT OF EACH.  (II Corinthians 5:10).

It is unique also in THE MATTER OF FINALITY.   Questions

already dealt with by temporal judgments will be REOPENED

 to be SETTLED ONCE FOR ALL.   Its sentence will be FINAL

and its adjudication of rewards and punishments FOR ALL

ETERNITY!  (Matthew 25:46)


To many, who put far off the day, and ridicule the prophets who foretold

the coming of God’s day, Jeremiah 17:15; II Peter 3:3-4,  their unbelief says

through much bravado,   “You are trying to frighten us with a bugbear. Let your

talked of judgment fall, and then we will believe it.” The delay of God’s judgment,

which means that when it comes it shall be the more terrible, is often erroneously

taken as meaning that it is not coming at all (Ezekiel 12:22-28).



            The Day of the Lord the Night of the Impenitent (vs. 18-20)


Divine judgments will be as sharp as they are sure. Sent in wrath,

proportioned to guilt, falling on the vulnerable points, they are the least

desirable of all imaginable things. The very thought of them should be

sobering, and the sure prospect of them overwhelming. Now, the scoffer is

the worst type of sinner, and will, in the nature of the case, be the greatest

sufferer when judgment comes. He is at the same time the most utterly

blinded character, and therefore likely to be taken most violently by

surprise. How he shall be so, and to what extent, is made in these verses to



·                     “THE DAY OF THE LORD.” This is a common expression in the

prophets, and its meaning is well defined. It is applied:


1. To the day of active Divine intervention on earth. (Job 1:15; 2:1;

Isaiah 2:12; Jeremiah 46:10; Obadiah 1:15.) There are periods

which God signalizes by special doings. Long quiescent,(a period of

inactivity) He becomes conspicuously active. He intervenes in human affairs

with unusual emphasis. Judgments often menaced are sent. Sinners long borne

with are punished. The godly, for a time imposed on, are delivered. Abuses, the

growth of centuries, are dealt with on their merits, and swept away. Such a

period is called “the day of the Lord” because it is the time of obvious and

special Divine activity. God not only strikes, but shows His hand.


2. To the day of final judgment. All others foreshadow, lead up to,

culminate and lose themselves in this. “The day of the Lord had already

become the name for every day of judgment, leading on to the last day”

(Pusey). This is the day of the Lord in a unique sense. It is unique as

regards UNIVERSALITY. It will see dealt with, not individuals merely, or

nations even, BUTTHE ENTIRE HUMAN RACE! (Matthew 25:31). It is

unique in the matter of thoroughness. There will be inquisition as to each

person, and as to every act of each (II Corinthians 5:10). It is unique also

in the matter of finality. Questions already dealt with by temporal judgments

will be reopened to be settled once for all. Its sentence will be final, and its

adjudication of rewards and punishments FOR ALL ETERNITY (Matthew



·                     ITS SIGNIFICANCE TO THE WICKED. This is explicitly and

minutely defined as:


1. Evil. “Darkness, and not light.” It could not be otherwise. Sin means

wrath, and wrath means infliction. Between a righteous God and all

unrighteousness there must exist an infinite antagonism. Between His Law

and such there is an essential incompatibility. Therefore His action towards

them must be adverse, His judgment on them that of condemnation. It is a

result of God’s purity, of the majesty of law, of the needs of moral

government, that “with the froward (a person difficult to deal with)

He shall show Himself froward.” (Psalm 18:26)


2. Only evil. “And no brightness in it.” The dispensation of forbearance, the

time for any measure or kind of good, is over. While any hope of

reformation remained, judgment was mingled with mercy. But when this is

hopeless, and the question is only one of punishing the reprobate, the

exercise of goodness would be an anachronism (out of place) and only

severity can be meted out.


3. Evil playing into the hands of evil. “As if a man fleeth before the lion,

and the bear meets him.” Divine punitive measures are various and

complete. They surround us. They hem us in on every side. They form as it

were a circle of fire round us. They are not to be evaded or escaped

(Jeremiah 11:11; Romans 2:3; Hebrews 2:3). In running away

from one, we only run into the jaws of another. If it is not the lion’s tooth,

then in any case it will be the bear’s claws. If health escape, property will

suffer. If both escape, the good name will be tarnished. If all three escape,

conscience will be wounded and happiness destroyed. If earthly evil

consequences do not reach us, there are eternal fires kindled against which

there will be no appeal.


4. Evil in the arms of good. “And rests his hand upon the wall, and the

snake bite him.” The wall, a ready support for the feeble or weary to lean

on, may furnish in its chinks a hiding place for the venomous snake. So

with all human refuges in God’s day of visitation. They will fail us. Their

help will not be available, or it will not be sufficient, or it will involve some

other evil as great as the one it will relieve. “The staff of bruised reed”

(Isaiah 36:6) is the fitting emblem of all fancied helps in the day of

God’s wrath. Even the likeliest will be found wanting in the very matter in

which it promises most.


·                     THEIR FOOLISH DESIRE FOR IT. “Woe to those who desire the

day of Jehovah!” The sinner’s desiring the day of vengeance on his sins

may mean:


1. Misapprehension. Israel did not realize the enormity of their sin. They

did not see that the threatened judgments were for themselves and on

account of it. They trusted to their position as “Israel after the flesh” to

secure them the immunity that only belonged to Israel after the Spirit, And

so their idea of the day of God was a time when their enemies would be

destroyed, and they themselves delivered and exalted. With all the wicked,

the eye for the sins of others is so much keener than the eye for their own,

that coming good is unconsciously allocated to themselves and coming evil

to others, and so Divine judgments desired which can only destroy them

when they come.


2. Bravado. The prophets who foretold the coming of God’s day rebuked

the people’s sin on account of which it was to come. Put on their mettle by

the rebuke, many would affect to ridicule the prophecy. Like others

(Jeremiah 17:15; II Peter 3:3-4), they would say, with an affectation

of unbelief, “You are trying to frighten us with a bugbear. Let your talked

of judgment fall, and then we will believe it.” The delay of God’s judgment,

which means that when it comes it shall be the more terrible, is often taken

as meaning that it is not coming at all Ezekiel 12:22, 27).


3. Vindictiveness. Some would deem themselves less criminal than others

— their enemies, it may be, and oppressors. On these they would expect

the heaviest strokes to fall, and to bring this about they would suffer more

or less themselves. There are Samsons among sinners who would run the

risk of perishing themselves in order to secure the destruction of others. To

all three classes “the day of the Lord is darkness, and no brightness in it.”

Evil will come none the less surely because it is good that is expected, and

it will come all the more sharply on those who to their other sin have added

malice against men and mockery of God.


21 “I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn

assemblies.”  Outward, formal worship will not avert the threatened danger

or secure the favor of God in the day of visitation. Your feast days

(chaggim); your feasts; YOUR COUNTERFEIT WORSHIP, the worship

of the true God under an idol symbol (compare God’s repudiation of merely

formal worship in Isaiah 1:11-15). I will not smell; οὐ μὴ ἀσφρανθῶ θυσίας 

 ou mae osphrantho - (Septuagint). No sweet savor ascends to

God from such sacrifices; so the phrase is equivalent to “I will not accept,”

“I will take no delight in” (compare Genesis 8:21; Exodus 29:18; Leviticus

26:31). Solemn assemblies; πανηγύρεσιν  panaeguresin -  (Septuagint);

atsaroth; the convocations for the keeping of the great festivals.

God under an idol symbol (compare God's repudiation of merely formal worship

in Isaiah 1:11-15). I will not smell; οὐ μὴ ἀσφρανθῶ θυσίας (Septuagint).

No sweet savour ascends to God from such sacrifices; so the phrase is

equivalent to "I will not accept," "I will take no delight in" (compare Genesis 8:21

Exodus 29:18Leviticus 26:31). Solemn assemblies;  πανηγύρεσιν (Septuagint); 

atsaroth; the convocations for the keeping of the great festivals.


22 “Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will

not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your

fat beasts.”  They maintained the formal ritual of the Mosaic worship in

their idolatry. The various offerings are here enumerated. Burnt offerings;

ὁλοκαυτώματαolokautomata(Septuagint) - (Exodus 29:38,42;

Numbers 28:9-11).  Meat offerings; θυσίας  thusias - (Septuagint);

munera (Vulgate); Exodus 29:40-41; Leviticus 2:1. Peace offerings

of your fat beasts; σωτηρίους ἐπιφανείας sotaerious epiphaneias

 “your grand peace offerings” (Septuagint); vota pinguium

vestrorum (Vulgate); Leviticus 3:1)


23 “Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear

the melody of thy viols.”  The noise of thy songs. Their psalms and hymns of

praise were mere noise in God’s ear, and wearied Him (Isaiah 1:14; 24:8;

Ezekiel 26:13). Viols (ch. 6:5); ὀργάνων  organon - (Septuagint). The

nebel, usually translated “psaltery,” was a kind of harp. Josephus (‘Ant.,’

7:12. 3) describes it as having twelve strings, played by the fingers. Music,

both instrumental and vocal, was used in the temple worship (see I  Chronicles

16:42; 23:5; and ch.25).




                        The Autograph of the Unreal (vs. 21-23)


Wicked Israel, strange to say, was worshipping Israel still. Theirs was

sanctimonious sinning. It was done more or less in a religious connection.

It was accompanied, and attempted to be covered, by an unstinted dressing

of pietistic cant. But it only smelled the more rank to Heaven. Unreal

worship is no mitigation, but only an aggravation, of the guilt of unholy




CIRCUMSTANTIALS OF WORSHIP. This is natural. It builds on the

form as a substitute for the spirit, and on the observance of the ordinance

thus as a substitute for a godly life. Going through religious forms costs

nothing in the way of crucifying the flesh. Accordingly, the scrupulosity of

Israel seemed to be great in proportion to their hypocrisy.


1. They kept the feasts. “Feasts” (v. 21) means the annual feasts. There is

no hint that these, or any of them, were neglected or overlooked. The

routine of celebration went mechanically on. They were observed without

purpose and without heart, but they were observed.


2. They performed the acts of worship. “The assemblies” (v. 21) were

probably the meetings for worship (Leviticus 23:36) appointed to be

held at the feasts. These as a class, no exception to which is indicated, are

spoken of as having been held. “Then ‘songs,’ no doubt of Zion, and

inspired by God, were duly sung, and the accompaniment played on harps

— instruments almost exclusively consecrated to the service of God”



3. They offered the usual gifts. The “burnt offering,” the “meat offering,”

and the “peace offering,” which are all voluntary offerings, were regularly

made, so far as appears. They were made, moreover, with fatlings —

beasts the best of their kind, and such as the Law prescribed. So far,

therefore, as form went, their worship was scrupulously correct. And the

same is generally true of hollow and unspiritual worship. Being purely

formal, it will seem excellent in proportion as it is elaborate. The absence

of the spirit is attempted to be compensated for by the exaltation of the

letter. Worship can no more be appraised by its fullness, and fairness of

outward form, than the dietary value of a fruit by its size and color.



OMITS THAN IN WHAT IT OBSERVES. No mention is made of the

“sin offering” or the “trespass offering.” Yet these were both compulsory,

whereas the three observed were optional. Hence it appears that:



start here

1. To the formalist that is least acceptable which is most Divine. He has no

true respect for God’s authority. He is a self-pleaser first of all and most of

all, and will find the ordinance most acceptable into the observance of

which there enters most of his own will and least of God’s. On this

principle the optional in worship will be preferred to the prescribed

(Isaiah 1:12), and the unauthorized to either (<410709>Mark 7:9). The

illustration of this in the countless vagaries of the Romanist and Ritualist is

easy to trace. Practical attention to the various details of worship by the

unspiritual almost seems to be inversely as their Divine authority.

2. To the formalist that is most distasteful which most closely connects

him with his sin. The sin offering was an acknowledgment, and involved a

remembrance, of guilt. This is distasteful to the natural heart. Give a sinful

man his way, and the last matter he will face will be his own sinfulness.

Allow a formalist discretion in worship, and the ordinance that most

articulately speaks of sin will be the one least observed. Singing will be

preferred to praying, a form of prayer will be preferred to the directness of

spontaneous utterance, and preaching, which most distinctly brings face to

face with personal responsibility and duty, will be almost crowded out.

Worship, in fact, in proportion as it becomes formal, becomes impersonal

and indirect.



The degrees of Divine disapprobation run up a graduated scale. “I will not

accept;” “I will not take pleasure in;” “I will not regard;” “I hate;” “I

despise.” (vs. 21-22) In all such worship the moral element, the first element of

acceptability, is altogether wanting. The thing is not meant for worship, and

cannot be treated as such. It is not observed according to God’s will, nor

as God’s appointment at all, but as our own invention or choice. It is not

aimed at the God-glorifying, soul saving objects prescribed in Scripture.

Gone through without interest or heart, done for fashion, or freak, or gain,

it honors neither God nor His command, whilst it calls into play no grace

of the religious life whatever. It is a mere performance, not only destitute

of moral value, but distasteful to God, and in gratuitous violation of His

Law. Hence the vocabulary of condemnation is exhausted on it (Isaiah

1:11-15) as the meanest and most hateful thing in the whole spiritual





                                    Ceremonialism Disdained (vs. 21-23)


Although the Jewish religion prescribed, as is evident especially from the

Book of Leviticus, innumerable observances, elaborate ritual, frequent and

costly sacrifices, still nowhere are there to be found more disclaimers, more

denunciations, of a merely ritual and ceremonial piety than in the Scriptures

of the Old Testament. This is but one of many declarations that the true

and living God will not accept any tribute of the hands which may be

offered in lieu of the homage of the heart.





1. Sacred assemblies are displeasing to Him. He does, indeed, love the gates

of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob; yet the prophet is inspired to

declare that God hates and despises the gatherings of His own people.


2. Solemn festivals are equally distasteful. These, indeed, have been

prescribed in the Law; they are commemorative of great mercies, great

deliverances; their neglect or omission is viewed with displeasure. Yet here

God is indignant that these feasts should be celebrated.


3. The same detestation is extended to the burnt offerings, meat offerings,

and peace offerings, which the Hebrews were instructed on proper

occasions to present to their Divine King.


4. More remarkable still, sacred songs and strains of music are as discord

in the ear of God. The very psalms in which the Divine attributes are

celebrated and the Divine gifts acknowledged are no longer acceptable to

him who inhabiteth the praises of Israel.





1. Not because they are themselves an inappropriate tribute of religious

emotion and religious consecration.


2. But because they are not expressive of sincere worship, gratitude,

confidence, and love. “This people,” saith the Searcher of hearts, draweth

nigh unto me with their lips, but their hearth far from me.” And our Lord

Christ has taught us that “God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must

worship Him in spirit and in truth.”


3. And because ceremonial observances may be, and in the cases in

question are, consistent with an idolatrous and wicked life. The very men

who were punctilious in these ceremonies and sacrifices were tampering

with the idolatry of surrounding peoples, and were acting with injustice and

selfishness in the ordinary relationships of life.


4. Because, further, these manifestations are as a matter of fact substituted

for those feelings and purposes which they are intended to promote. In

fact, seeming religiousness hides the absence of real religion, so that this

absence is sometimes unnoticed by the apparent but heartless and formal



24 “But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a

mighty stream.”  But let judgment run down as waters; let judgment roll on;

Septuagint, καὶ κυλισθήσεται ὡς ὕδωρ κρίμα kai kulisthaesetai os

hudor krima - “and judgment shall roll along as water.” Et revelabitur

quasi aqua judicium (Vulgate). This verse has been explained in different

ways. Hitzig, Keil, with many ancient commentators, find in it a threat of

chastisement, “the flooding of the land with judgment and the punitive

righteousness of God.” Pusey, Professor Gandell, and others consider it

to be a call to amendment. “He bids them let judgment, which had hitherto

been perverted in its course, roll on like a mighty tide of waters (being

from Kentucky and knowing the enthusiasm of sports fans, what if just

the people of Alabama, whose slogan is “ROLL TIDE” – would put as

much effort into fulfilling this verse as God commands – then the United

States of America would be forever changed, because it could not help

but bubbling over into surroundings states – CY – 2013), sweeping

before it all hindrances, filling the whole land with righteousness. Schegg

makes it to be a promise of the coming of the day of the Lord, that is, the

revelation of Messiah. But such a promise in this position is very forced

and unnatural. The second interpretation seems most suitable. In the midst

of the denunciation of men’s formal worship, the prophet announces their

duty in the present crisis -  attention to which could alone win God’s favor.

Judgment and righteousness, long neglected and forgotten, should permeate

the land like refreshing streams of water (Kentucky has more miles of

streams of water than any state except Alaska – as I was driving through

southern Christian County, today being January 15, 2013, the recent

rains have increased the volume in many waterways and sinkholes along

the highways and byways – this is what we are commanded to do – CY –

2013) — a simile of special signification to an inhabitant of an Eastern

country, where the neighborhood of a perennial stream was as delightful

as it was unusual. Mighty (ethan); ἄβατος abatos -  “impassable” (Septuagint);

fortis (Vulgate). The word may mean “strong,” or “perennial.” “Whence

the seventh month, just before the early rain, was called the month

Ethanim, i.e. the month of the perennial streams, when they alone flowed”






            The Divinely Abhorrer and the Divinely Demanded (vs. 21-24)


“I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies,”



·                     THE DIVINELY ABHORRENT. What is that? Mere ceremonial

religion; empty ritual. “I hate, I despise your feast days, and 1 will not

smell in your solemn assemblies,” etc. “The same aversion from the

ceremonial observances of the insincere and rebellious Israelites which

Jehovah here expresses He afterwards employed Isaiah to declare to the

Jews (Isaiah 1:10-20). The two passages are strikingly parallel, only

the latter prophet amplifies what is set forth in a more condensed form by

Amos. It is also to be observed that where Amos introduces the musical

accompaniments of the sacrifices, Isaiah substitutes the prayers; both

concluding with the Divine words, ‘I will not hear.’ ‘Take thou away from

me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols.’ The

singing of their psalms was nothing more to God than a wearisome round

which was to be brought to an end. Singing and playing on harps was a

part of the worship of the temple (1 Chronicles 16:41; 23:5; 25.).

Nothing seems more abhorrent to the holy eye and heart of Omniscience

than empty ceremony in religion. No sacrifices are acceptable to Him,

however costly, unless the offerer has presented himself. No psalmody is

acceptable to His ear but the psalmody of self-oblivious devotion.” “God is

a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”

(John 4:24)


·                     THE DIVINELY DEMANDED. “Let judgment run down as waters,

and righteousness as a mighty stream.” While no direction is given

respecting the regulation of the sacrifices in order that they may be

rendered acceptable, here is a special demand for morality in life, moral

rectitude in conduct. Thus God once more expresses the idea that “to obey

is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”  (I Samuel

15:22)  The way to worship God acceptably is not by ceremonial

observances, not by religious contributions, not in singing psalms,

but in doing the right and loving thing towards our fellow men. (Micah

6:8)  The true practical expression of our love to God

is that of a virtuous and generous conduct towards mankind. Stud your

country with fine churches if you like, fill them with aesthetic worshippers

and enthusiastic devotees. But all that is abhorrent to God unless you feel

and act rightly towards your fellow men in your daily life. We had rather

see justice rolling on like mighty waters, and righteousness as a swelling

and ever-flowing stream, than crowded churches. “Show me your faith...

by your works.” Show me your worship by your morality; show me your

love to God by your devotion to your fellow men. “If we love one another,

God dwelleth in us.” (I John 4:12)  “If a man say, I love God, and hateth

his brother, he is a liar: for if he loveth not his brother whom he hath seen,

how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”  (ibid. v. 20)





                        The River of Righteousness (v. 24)


Whilst the holy King and Judge rejects the mere service of the lip and of

the hand, when unaccompanied by genuine piety, he desires above all

things the prevalence of those practical principles of rectitude which are the

secret, hidden power of an upright and acceptable life. In a very bold and

beautiful metaphor the Divine wish and pleasure are declared. Let the

hypocritical festivals, the unmeaning sacrifices, the hollow songs, be swept

away, and let the river of righteousness roll through the land, and God shall

be pleased, and His people shall be blessed.


·                     ITS DIVINE SOURCE. The fountain of rectitude is not to be found in

the arrangements of human society, in the laws of human device, in the

expediency which aims at human pleasures. We are to look up to the hills,

to the heavens, for its source. It wells from the eternal constitution of the

moral universe, from the very nature, from the glorious government, of the



·                     ITS VAST VOLUME. There is no community of men, there is no

social relationship, in which righteousness may not be exemplified. Even

the heathen philosophers could say great things of justice.


            “Nor morning star, nor evening star, so fair!”


Ardent religionists sometimes lose sight of this principle and its necessity,

thinking justice too sublunary and commonplace to be deserving of their

attention. Such a practice is not sanctioned by Scripture, which from

beginning to end lays stress upon the faithful and honorable discharge of

human duty, as between man and man, in all the varied relationships of life.


·                     ITS MIGHTY CURRENT. There is a POWER IN RIGHTEOUSNESS

 which only the morally blind can overlook, which commands the homage of

the observant and the thoughtful. For whilst it is not the kind of power that the

worldly cannot but see, and the vulgar cannot but admire, it is nevertheless

power — enduring, effective, undoubted power. The state is strong in

which justice is administered, in which a high standard of uprightness is

maintained in social and public life; whilst injustice, insincerity, oppression,

corruption, and deceit are detrimental to the true interests of any



·                     ITS PERENNIAL FLOW. A river differs from a cistern, a reservoir,

in this — that it does not run dry, that it is not exhausted, that it flows on

from age to age. And the righteousness that the eternal King desires to see

prevail in human society is an ever-flowing stream. Not like the mountain

torrent, which is dried up in summer heat; but like the vast river, which is

fed from the everlasting hills, and is replenished by many a tributary stream,

is the course of Divine righteousness upon earth. Not in one nation, in one

age, in one dispensation only, but in every time and place does this river of

righteousness flow for the welfare of mankind.


·                     ITS BENEFICENT RESULTS. From insincere religious observances

no good can come; but from justice, from a proper discharge of duty, from

right principles, we may look for every good. God is pleased that His

attribute becomes His creature’s law. And righteousness exalts nations

and establishes thrones.




            Real Calamity Waiting upon Unreal Service (v. 24)


“The meaning of this verse is not, ‘Let justice and righteousness take the

place of your sacrifices.’… The verse threatens the flooding of the land

with judgment and the punitive righteousness of God” (Keil). Adopting this

interpretation, we observe:


·                     THAT WHICH IS REJECTED “IS NIGH UNTO CURSING.” Hollow

service has been sitting for its portrait, and the picture is striking. Now we

have the Divine appraisemal revealed in the action to be taken forthwith.

Instead of approval there is condemnation. Instead of reward there is

punishment. Instead of profit resulting there is loss on every issue.


1. It deserves this. Want of conformity to law is a sufficient ground of

condemnation. Positive transgression of law is ground more decided still

Wilful mockery of the Lawgiver is most deeply criminal of all. All these

elements pertained to Israel’s sham observances, and, together, they

constitute an indictment on which the criminal’s conviction is inevitable.


2. It requires it. God’s moral government must show itself strong and just,

and in order to this, sin, and all sin, must be visited with His avenging

stroke. Especially must this be done in the sphere of “things whereby God

maketh himself known.” The thing whose function it is to make Him known

must do so in the glorious character he bears.



could be argued, and is here affirmed.


1. They express righteousness. They are deserved. They are all deserved.

They are deserved in the proportions in which they come. If they did not

come, the moral balance of things would be disturbed. If they came in less

decided form, this balance would be only half adjusted. They are “righteous

judgments” in the fullest and highest sense.


2. They accomplish righteousness. They are sent in the interests of it. They

fall on the unrighteous. They are designed and fitted to lead to their

reformation (Isaiah 26:9). Sometimes the righteous suffer from them

also. In that case their tendency is:


a.      on the one hand to promote the righteousness of the sufferer, and

b.      on the other to emphasize the evil of unrighteousness in any

section of a community, AND SO PREVENT IT.


 As a matter of fact, Divine judgments have often wrought righteousness both

in individuals (II Chronicles 33:11-16) and communities (Isaiah 43:21).

Even in eternity they bulk largely, in the thought of the redeemed,

among the helpful experiences of earth (Revelation 7:14).



LIKE A FLOOD. There are two ideas here. The first is:


Ø      Let judgment roll on like water. In this:


o       It will be deep (Psalm 36:6), swallowing up all its victims.

o       It will be sudden, taking the evil doers by surprise

(Luke 17:20-31).

o       It will be irresistible, sweeping before it every opposing

object (Psalm 90:5).

o       It will be destroying, leaving no living thing in its track.

o       It will be ultimately fertilizing, leaving behind it the rich ooze

of an abiding lesson.  (Unfortunately, that lesson is



Ø      And righteousness like on inexhaustible stream. Judgment is

the act of which righteousness is the principle. God’s righteousness,

whether in Himself or in His judgments, is like an inexhaustible



o       It is perennial. The righteousness of God’s judgments is a

constant quantity. It never intermits. Each is righteous and

all are righteousness.


o       It is pure. Righteousness in God is necessarily so. There is no

Foreign ingredient, no cloud of mixture in it whatever. It is

righteous through and through. “There is,” there can be,

“no unrighteousness in Him.” (Psalm 92:15)


o       It is cleansing. It purifies all it touches; the person it is

laved on, the city it passes through.


o       It is irrigating. It waters the fields of human life. It makes

the graces, like the grass, to grow in the desert, and withering

things revive. THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD,  like

water streams, is rich in every element of blessing for time and is

a benefactor for eternity as well.


25 “Have ye offered unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness

forty years, O house of Israel?”  Ye have always been idolaters, corrupters

of pure worship.  Your service in the wilderness, when you were little exposed

to external influence, was no more true and faithful than that which you offer

now; that was as unacceptable as this. Have ye offered unto me? Did ye offer

unto me? The answer expected is “No;” i.e. you did not so really, because

your worship was mixed with falsehood, and was not offered simply and

genuinely to me. It is certain, too, that during the sojourn in the wilderness

sacrificial worship fell greatly into desuetude, as we know that the rite of

circumcision was suspended (Joshua 5:5-7), the Passover was not duly

celebrated, and Joshua urged the people to put away the strange gods from

among them (Joshua 24:23). Moses, too, doubtless with a view to

existing practices, warns them against worshipping the heavenly bodies

(Deuteronomy 4:19), and offering sacrifice unto devils (seirim), “after

whom they had gone a-whoring” (Leviticus 17:7). The prophets, too,

allude to the idolatry practiced in the desert (see Ezekiel 20:7-26;

Hosea 9:10). But to argue (as some neologians do) from this passage

of Amos that the Israelites during those forty years knew nothing of

Jehovah, or that Amos himself denies that they offered him any worship, is

absurd, seeing that the prophet presupposes the fact, and blames them for

corrupting the Divine service and mingling the prescribed and enacted

ritual with idolatrous accretions. Sacrifices; slain, bloody sacrifices.

Offerings; bloodless sacrifices, meal offerings.


26 “But ye have born the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun your

images, the star of your God, which ye made to yourselves.”  This verse

has occasioned great perplexity to commentators.  The connection with the

context, the meaning of some of the terms, and whether the reference is to past,

present, or future, are questions which have roused much controversy. We need

not here recapitulate the various opinions which have been held. It will be

sufficient to state what seems to be the simplest and most probable explanation

of the passage. But we must not omit to mention first the explanation adopted

by Ewald, Schrader, Farrar, Konig, and others, viz. that this verse refers to the

punitive deportation which was to be the people’s lot, when they should take

their shrines and images with them into captivity. “So shall ye take (into exile)

Sakkuth your king,” etc. But the punishment is foretold in v. 27; and this

verse contrasts their idol worship with the neglected worship of Jehovah

(v. 25). But ye have borne; and ye bare; καὶ ἀνελάβετε  - kai anelabete

(Septuagint); et portastis (Vulgate). Ye offered me no pure worship in the

wilderness, seeing that ye took false gods with you, and joined their worship

with, or substuted it for, mine. The tabernacle of your Moloch; τὴν σκηνὴν τοῦ

Μολόχ taen skaenaen tou Moloch - (Septuagint); tabernaculum Moloch

vestro (Vulgate). The Hebrew word rendered “tabernacle” (sikkuth). which is

found nowhere else, has been variously explained. Aquila gives συσκιασμούς:

suskiasmous - Theodotion, “vision,” reading the whole sentence thus: Καὶ ἤρατε

τὴν ὅρασιν τοῦ Θεοῦ ὑμῶν ὑμῶν ἄστρον τοῦ Θεοῦ ὑμῶν.

Kai aerate taen horasin tou Theou humon humon astron tou Theou

humon - Many moderns render, “stake,” “column,” or “shrine.” Others suppose

it to be equivalent to Sakkuth, an Assyrian name for Molech (or Adar); but this

is very uncertain, sad the parallelism requires the word to be an appellative and

not a proper name. It most probably means “shrine,” a portable shrine, like those

spoken of in Acts 19:24 in connection with the worship of Diana. The Syriac and

Arabic versions call it “tent,” and thus the reproach stands forth emphatically that,

instead of, or in conjunction with, the true tabernacle, they bore aloft, as if proud

of their apostasy, the tabernacle of a false god. Such shrines were used by the

Egyptians, according to Herodotus (2:63). Many such may be seen in the Egyptian

room of the British Museum. Keil quotes Drumann, ‘On the Rosetta Inscription,’ p.

211, “These were small chapels, generally gilded and ornamented with

flowers and in other ways, intended to hold a small idol when processions

were made, and to be carried or driven about with it.” Hence we must look

to Egypt as the source of this idolatry. Moloch, though sanctioned by the

Septuagint and Stephen (Acts 7:43), is a mistranslation. De Rossi,

indeed, mentions that one Hebrew manuscript gives Moloch, but the

received reading is Melkekem, which is confirmed by Symmachus and

Theodotion, who have τοῦ βασιλέως ὑμῶνtou basileos humon

 and by the Syriac. The translation, therefore, should run, “Ye took up the

shrine of your king,” i.e. of him whom ye made your king in the place of

Jehovah, meaning some stellar divinity. And Chiun your images; καὶ τὸ

ἄστρον τοῦ θεοῦ ὑμῶν Ῥαμφάν, kai to astron tou Theou humon

Ramphan - and the star of your god Raiphan “(Septuagint); et

imaginem idolorum vestrorum; literally, the kiyyun of your images. The

parallelism again requires us to take this unknown word as an appellative;

and according to its probable derivation, its meaning is “pedestal,” or

“framework,” that on which the image stood. The Greek rendering is, as

Keil thinks, owing to a false reading of the unpointed text, in old Hebrew

kaph and resh being easily confounded, and vau and pe. Theodotion

considered the word a common noun, translating it by ἀμαύρωσιν

amaurosin -  It is probably a mere coincidence that in some Assyrian

inscriptions the name Kairan occurs as that of a deity, who is identified

with Saturn; that the Egyptians (from whom the Israelites must have derived

the notion) ever acknowledged such a deity is quite unproved. Stephen merely

quotes the Textus Receptus of his day, which was close enough to the original for

his argument. The star of your god. These words are in loose apposition

with the preceding, and are equivalent to “your star god,” or the star whom

ye worship as god. Whether some particular star is meant, or whether the

sun is the deity signified, cannot be determined, although the universal

prevalence of the worship of sun gods in Egypt makes the latter

supposition very probable. Stephen puts the sin in a general form: “God

gave them up to serve the host of heaven” (Acts 7:42; compare

Deuteronomy 4:19; 17:3). Which ye made to yourselves. This was

the crime, SELF-WILL, desertion of the appointed way for devices

 of their own invention.



                        A Divided Homage Rejected (vs. 25-26)


The continuity of Israel’s national life is here assumed. Amos addressed the

same people that was brought by Moses out of Egypt, that was led by

Joshua into Canaan. The same temptations were followed by the same falls;

in fact, until after the Captivity, the chosen nation was ever liable to relapse

into partial and temporary idolatry. This was especially the case with the

northern kingdom, which had not the benefit of the temple services,

sacrifices, and priesthood. The peculiarity of the case was the attempt to

combine two systems of religion so inconsistent as the worship of Jehovah

and the worship of the false deities of the neighboring nations. Yet this

attempt is substantially one which is renewed by some in every generation,

even under this spiritual and Christian dispensation. Displeasing as was the

conduct of Israel in the view of a holy and “jealous” God, equally offensive

is every endeavor to serve two masters, to divide the allegiance and

devotion of the heart.



HOMAGE AND WORSHIP. This is no doubt an evidence of human

inconsistency and instability; but it is not to be denied that our nature

frequently exhibits these qualities. On the one hand, education, the voice of

conscience, the aspirations of better moments, the influence of pious

friends, tend to retain the heart beneath the sway of true religion. On the

other hand, the example of the pleasure seeking and the worldly, the baser

impulses of our nature, the suggestions of our spiritual adversary, all draw

our hearts towards an inferior good, towards an ignoble choice. Hence

many are found neither renouncing God nor rejecting the allurements of a

sinful world.






1. God’s just claim is to the whole nature and the whole life of His

intelligent creatures. The Father of the spirits of all flesh cannot consent to

share His rightful possession with any rival, any pretender, be he who he



2. The nature of man is such that he can only give religious reverence and

service that shall be worthy of the name to one Lord. Christ has

emphatically pronounced upon the case in his words, “Ye cannot serve

God and mammon.”  (Matthew 6:24)


3. The moral degradation and disaster involved in the endeavor are

palpable. There is inconsistency, nay, there is opposition, between the two

services. A riven heart is a wretched heart. Hypocrisy is a sandy foundation

upon which to build the character and life; upon this no secure and stable

edifice can possibly be reared.



PRESENTED TO EVERY MORAL NATURE. It is the alternative which

Joshua urged upon the Israelites: “Choose ye this day whom ye will serve.”

(Joshua 24:15)  It is the alternative which Elijah urged upon a later generation:

“How long halt ye between two opinions [between the two sides]? If Jehovah

             be God, serve Him; but if Baal, then serve him.”    (I Kings 18:21)


27 “Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus,

saith the LORD, whose name is The God of hosts.”  Therefore. The

consequence of their continued alienation from God should be deportation

to a foreign land, beyond Damascus, far away from the confines of the

country once their own possession (II Samuel 8:6), thus dimly denoting Assyria,

at that time not hostile, but known in the time of Tiglath-Pileser I. (see the

accomplishment, II Kings 15:29; 17:6). Stephen says (Acts 7:43), “beyond Babylon;”

Magis enim,”observes Jerome, “intelligentiam quam verbum posuit;” and he is

probably blending other prophecies with that of Amos, e.g. Jeremiah 20:4.






                        Trusting in Idols that Cannot Save (vs. 25-27)


In these words, God’s case against Israel just announced is strengthened.

Their services now were hollow and insincere; their sacrifices formal acts

in which the heart had no part. This, in itself, was ground of punishment

even to destruction. But it is only a portion of the iniquity chargeable

against them. In the wilderness the course had been already entered on.

Appointed ordinances had been neglected. Idolatrous ordinances had been

introduced. As now they were going on, so they had long ago begun.

There was a diuturnity (long duration)in their wrong doing which made the fall

of destroying judgments a foregone conclusion. We see here:



Israel in Amos’s time was and should receive was affected by what Israel

had been and done in the desert of sin. This is according to principles

universally received.


1. Every nation is held responsible for its own entire past. The England of

today not only owns responsibility for, but is striving nobly to make

compensation for, errors of the England of thrice hundred years ago. The

prophet-killing Israel of our Lord’s time are declared responsible for all the

martyr blood shed from that of Abel down (Matthew 23:35). The logic

of this is unassailable. The national identity remains unbroken. The national

policy remains unchanged. The national life maintains its continuity. And so

among its heirlooms is the inherited responsibility for the sins of other



2. A nation is further responsible for its past, in that the present takes its

tone from it. A certain proportion of almost every evil is hereditary. From

the past generations we inherit evil qualities and learn evil ways. The

father’s vices reappear in the child. The present is the child of the past,

begotten in its likeness, and liable as such for the evil it has taken up and



3. The life of a nation, like that of an individual, can be judged of only as

a whole. If a nation from its birth to its death be one thing, so is a nation’s

life. Now, the glory of God’s dealing is its perfect equity, arising out of its

exhaustive induction of facts. He leaves nothing out of account, no smallest

word, no slightest desire, no most trifling act. His verdict in each case is

based on the entire life of the party in court. The method is fair. No other

method would be fair. Each part is modified by its relation to all the others,

and cannot be fairly judged unless in connection with them.


·                     THAT PAST WAS PERSISTENTLY UNFAITHFUL. The interrogative

form of v. 25 is equivalent to a strong negation.


1. They had neglected sacrifice in the wilderness. “Have ye offered me

sacrifices and gifts in the desert forty years?” Typifying the atonement of

Christ, through which men draw near to God, sacrifice was the

fundamental exercise of Old Testament worship. This was not abandoned

by the priests (Numbers 16:46), but it was, like circumcision

(Joshua 5:5), neglected by the people, and superseded by sacrifices to

idols (Deuteronomy 32:17; Ezekiel 20:16). In this neglect or

perversion were included the voluntary gifts (offerings) as well as the

prescribed sacrifices. Thus early adopted, and long persisted in, was

Israel’s rebellions way. Emphasizing the pronoun, God says in effect of the

whole run of Jewish national history, “Ye either offered no sacrifice at all,

or none to me.”


2. They were at palm to make, and carry, idolatrous appliances with them.

“But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch.” Divinely appointed

sacrifice they found too burdensome to be followed. Of Divine worship in

each of its ordinances they said, “What a weariness is it!” But they thought

it no trouble to make and carry about portable shrines and pedestals for use

in the worship of heathen idols. A man will do for his idol what he will not

do for God. Be it idol lust, or habit, or opinion, he loves it more, and is

more like it, and so finds its service more congenial. The God of the

legalist is not the God of Scripture, but a God of his own devising, and so

he serves Him laboriously in works of self-righteousness, whilst stubbornly

declining the far easier call of the true God to simple faith in Jesus Christ.

It was in following his affinities thus that Israel was ever found joined to

his idols, and alien to the God of heaven.


3. This idolatry they had derived from Egypt. “It was no doubt to these

Egyptian sun gods that the star god which the Israelites carried about with

them belonged” (Keil). They were not seduced into idolatry merely by the

nations among whom they passed. They did not wait for that. They tired of

Jehovah’s service, and sought out false gods for themselves. They were

bent on having idols, come whence they would. Failing others, they

adopted, in their blind and besotted perverseness, those of Egypt itself

Their return to Jehovah for deliverance was desertion, and the lesson

learned under idolatrous Egypt’s savage oppression was to adopt the idol

worship that produced it. This is eloquent of the godlessness of the corrupt

heart. Nothing can disgust it with idols, nothing can attach it to God. It

hates Him always, and embraces, or seeks, or makes occasions of

abandoning His worship.


4. Israels worship of idols involved the serving of them. “The booth of

your king.” Every man’s god is his king. Worship is the highest act of

service. When it is rendered, the other and lower acts necessarily follow;

when it is abandoned, they logically and actually cease. A new idol in the

heart means a new sovereign over the life.



This it always is, but in the present case the correspondence is specially



1. They should go into captivity. God often punishes sins against Himself by

human instrumentality, generally that of the wicked (II Samuel 24:13;

Psalm 109:6). The severity of such punishment is guaranteed by the

native cruelty of the human heart. As the conqueror and owner of the

vanquished and enslaved, the wicked puts on his worst character, and his

treatment becomes punishment corresponding to the worst sin of idolatry.


2. Their captivity should be among idolaters. The rod of God’s anger in

this case was to be the Assyrian (Isaiah 10:5). In captivity with him,

Israel would find out what kind of masters idolatry makes of its votaries.

This would disenchant them, if anything could. The test of the god we

worship is the practical one of the character of his service. When our idol

lusts become our masters, we know them as they really are. The drunkard

has attained to a knowledge of the drink appetite that would be a

wholesome revelation to those who are just beginning to indulge.


3. They should die as slaves in the land out of which their progenitor had

at first been called. “I will carry you beyond Damascus.” Stephen

(Acts 7:42-43) quotes this “beyond Babylon.” In either case the

neighborhood of Ur of the Chaldees would be referred to. This, which

had been the cradle of the nation, would be its grave. There, where their

godly ancestor had been a prince, the idolatrous nation would be slaves

(Joshua 24:14, 3); his faith, and the promises to it, having been lost



·                     GOD’S THREATS EMPHASIZED BY HIS NAME. This says what

he is, and so indicates how he will act.


1. He is Jehovah, the Self-existent One. “He cannot but be, and He is, the

Source of all being; the unchangeable, infinite, eternal Essence.” As

Jehovah, He:


a.      originates all things (v. 8; ch. 9:6; Jeremiah 33:2),

b.      controls all things (Psalm 10:16; 99:1),

c.       fills and possesses all things,


and “nothing is too hard for him “ (Jeremiah 32:27).


2. He is Lord of hosts. “The Lord of the heavenly hosts, for whose worship

they forsook God; the Lord of the hosts on earth, whose ministry He

employs to punish those who rebel against Him. All creatures in heaven and

earth are, as He says of the holy angels, ‘ministers of His that do His

pleasure’” (Pusey). “Jehovah,” the great First Cause, “God of hosts,” the

Controller of all second causes whatever, there is that in the Name of God

which guarantees the execution, literal and exhaustive, of all His threats.




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