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)

 

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,

 as with A PEOPLE  WHO HAVE FALLEN BENEATH

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

A MILLION-FOLD?

 

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

DESTRUCTION!

 

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).

 

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,  [Opwv mh<

ajnala>myh wJv pu~r oJ oi+kov jIwsh<f kai< katafa>gh| aujto>n 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, tw~|oi]kw| jIsrah>l tooiko 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.

 

  • EVEN THE FOREDOOMED ARE NOT ABANDONED OF GOD.

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.

STILL, SOME MIGHT TURN, AS MANY DID IN JERUSALEM

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.

 

  • THERE IS A SEEKING IN CONNECTION WITH WHICH IT IS

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,

NOT FOR HIS GIFTS!

 

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

WHOLELY, SUPREMELY AND INTENSELY!   Seeking God

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.

So on CHRIST, as GOD’S UNSPEAKABLE GIFT,  the other

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)

 

  • THIS IS NOT THE SEEKING TO WHICH MEN NATURALLY

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

SIMPLE!

 

  • IN THE SEEKING OF THE NATURAL HEART SUCCESS MUST

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, oJ poiw~n eijv u[yov kri>ma.

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 ajna>gkh pikri>a, ojdu>nh

- 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), kai<

dikaiosu>nhn eijv gh~n e]qhken 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, oJ poiw~n pa>nta ho poion panta -  but in Job has

pleia>v pleias.  The Vulgate gives, facientem Arcturum. Symmachus and

Theodotion give pleia>da pleiada - 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, kai< metaskeua>zwn

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

 jWri>wnov - 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 - hJme>ran eijv nu>kta

suskota>zwn 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.  (See

Deuteronomy 29:19)

 

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, JO diairw~n suntrimmo<n ejpi< ijscu>n

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! 

 

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,

katekondu>lizon 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, dw~ra ejklekta> - 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);

katapatou~ntev di>kaion 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, lamba>nontev ajlla>gmata -  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, pe>nhtav ejn pu>laiv ejkkli>nontev

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.

 

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:

 

  • WHEN THERE IS NOTHING THAT CAN BE SAID TO THE

PURPOSE.  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

DISSERTION 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.

The patient will believe that death is at hand when the physician

 turns away and refuses to prescribe.  JESUS CHRIST is the

GREAT PHYSICIAN. 

 

  • WHEN IT IS EVIDENT THAT SPEECH MUST BE UNAVAILING.

 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 6:11).

 

God ceases to speak when He is ready to strike. Expostulation would be an

anachronism 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 1:24-31).  “He that being often reproved hardeneth

his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed and that without remedy.”  (Proverbs

29:1; compare II Chronciles 36:14-16).  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!

 

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.

 

  • THEIR FUTURE RELATIONS CLEAR IN THE LIGHT OF BOTH.

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

ACCORDING TO THE WILL OF GOD!

 

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

SINS CONVICTION AWAY and THEN CONGRATULATES

HIMSELF ON THE DISCOVERY OF PEACE.   But it is only

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

It is the one spiritual case that is utterly desperate.

 

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.

 

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, On tro>pon ei]pate, memish>kamen ta< ponra< kai<

hjgaph>samen ta<kala> - 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 PRESENCE OF GOD WITH MEN IS THE CHIEFEST

EXPRESSION OF HIS FAVOUR. 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

affinity with God, and COME WITH RELISH INTO HIS PRESENCE!

 

  • 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).

 

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

UNION WITH GOD, where it has SPIRITUAL COMPLETENESS

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)

 

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;

platei>aiv plateiais -  (Septuagint); plateis - (Vulgate). Highways; the

narrower streets; oJdoi~v 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

9:4-7).

 

 

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

OMNIPOTENT ONE, or LORD or the ABSOLUTE ONE, and

 JEHOVAH or the SELF-EXISTENT ONE, is the BEING with

whom to decide is to act, and to will is to accomplish. Of

the deliverance so emphasized observe:

 

  • THE MORAL CERTAINTY THAT THE WARNING TO AN

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.

 

  • A THREAT THE OBVERSE OF A CONDITIONAL PROMISE. “For

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

persuasion.

 

  • CREATION LANGUISHING WHEN THE CREATOR FROWNS.

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

IT REACHES THE STREETS, where THE SUFFERERS

HERD AND LAMENT TOGETHER.  (There will be no

Demonstrations in hell along the lines of:  OCCUPY HELL –

CY – 2013)

 

  • THE LAMENTATION SYMPTOMATIC OF A GREAT DISASTER.

 

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

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE OCCASION!   God’s judgments,

 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

comes INFALLABLY with EXPERIENCE!

 

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).

 

 

The Day of the Lord (v. 18)

 

This is a common expression in the prophets, and its meaning is well defined. It is

applied:

 

  • 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

TIME OF OBVIOUS AND SPECIAL DIVINE ACTIVITY.

 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).

 

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

house.

 

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?

 

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; ouj mh<ajsfranqw~

qusi>av 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; panhgu>resin panaeguresin -  (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;

oJlokautw>mataolokautomata(Septuagint) - (Exodus 29:38,42;

Numbers 28:9-11).  Meat offerings; qusi>av thusias - (Septuagint);

munera (Vulgate); Exodus 29:40-41; Leviticus 2:1. Peace offerings

of your fat beasts; swthri>ouv ejpifanei>avsotaerious 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); ojrga>nwn 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).

 

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, kai< kulisqh>setai wJv u[dwr kri>ma 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); a]batov 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”

(Pusey).

 

 

Real Calamity (v. 24)

 

  • WHEN JUDGMENT IN RIGHTEOUSNESS COMES, IT COMES

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

ETERNAL!

 

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

 stream.

 

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; kai< ajnela>bete  - 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; th<n skhnh<n

tou~ Molo>c 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 suskiasmou>v:

suskiasmous - Theodotion, “vision,” reading the whole sentence thus:

Kai< h]rate th<n o[rasin tou~ Qeou~ uJmw~n uJmw~n a]stron tou~ Qeou~ uJmw~n -

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 tou~ basile>wv uJmw~n tou 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; kai<

to< a]stron tou~ qeou~ uJmw~n JRaifa>n 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 ajmau>rwsin

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.

 

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.

 

 

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