Amos 4



In this second address the prophet:


·        reproves the voluptuous women of Samaria, and foretells their captivity

(vs. 1-3);


·        with bitter irony he describes the peoples devotion to idolatry (vs. 4-5):


·        he shows how incorrigible they have proved themselves under Gods

chastisements (vs. 6-11);


  • therefore they must expect further punishment, if so be that they

will learn to fear the Lord (vs. 12, 13).


1 “Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan, that are in the mountain of Samaria,

which oppress the poor, which crush the needy, which say to their masters,

Bring, and let us drink.” The very women are leaders in dissoluteness and

oppression. Ye kine of Bashan. Fat and well liking, such as the rich pastures of

Bashan produce. Some have supposed that by this term are meant the luxurious

nobles of Samaria, who are called “cows” as being effeminate and

licentious. This is possible; but such grandees would be called rather “bulls

of Bashan,” and the “masters” mentioned just below signify more naturally

these women’s husbands than the kings.  The genders in the sentence are

interchanged. “Hear ye,” “your Lord,” “upon you,” “they shall

take you, being masculine; that oppress,” “that crush,” “that say,” “your

posterity,” “ye shall go out,” “each before her,” “ye shall cast,” feminine.

Evidently the prophet addresses his reproaches to the luxurious of both

sexes, though he begins with the women. The land of Bashan extended

from Hermon to the Jabbok, including Gaulonitis, Auronitis, Batauea, and

Trachonitis. It was always famous for its pasturage, cattle, and oaks. 

Mountain of Samaria. The hill of Shomer, on which Samaria was built (see

note on ch. 3:9). Oppress the poor. This they did in ministering, or getting their

husbands to minister, to their luxury and debauchery. Apparently they

urged their husbands to violence and fraud in order to obtain means to

satisfy their extravagance. A bad woman is thoroughly unscrupulous (see

the case of Ahab and Naboth, (I Kings 21:7-16). Their masters; their

lords; i.e. husbands (compare Genesis 18:12; I Peter 3:6). Bring, and

let us drink. They invite their husbands to supply the means of debauchery

and to join in their revels.


2 “The Lord GOD hath sworn by His holiness, that, lo, the days shall

come upon you, that He will take you away with hooks, and your

posterity with fishhooks.”  By His holiness. God swears by His holiness,

which cannot tolerate iniquity, and which they had profaned (ch.2:7; compare

ch. 6:8). That he will take you away. “That one, or they, shall take

you away;” the enemy, the instrument of God’s vengeance, is meant. With

hooks; tsinnoth; Septuagint, ejn o[ploiv: - en hoploisimplement; untensil;

tool; weapon; armor; instrument - Vulgate, in contis. The translation,

with hooks,” is correct, the idea being that the people shall be utterly helpless

and taken for destruction, like fish caught with hooks (Jeremiah 16:16;

Habakkuk 1:15). Your posterity; acharith (ch. 9:1); better, your residue, those

who have not been destroyed previously. The Septuagint and the Vulgate give

quite a different notion to the passage. The former (according to the Vatican

manuscript) has, Kai< tou<v meq uJmw~n eijv le>bhtav uJpokaiome>nouv

ejmbalou~sin e]mpuroi loimoi> - Kai tous meth humon eis lebaetas

hupokaiomenous embalousin empuroi loimoi - “And fiery destroyers shall

cast those with you into boiling caldrons;” the latter, Et levabunt vos in contis,

et reliquias vestras in ollis ferventibus.


3 “And ye shall go out at the breaches, every cow at that which is

before her; and ye shall cast them into the palace, saith the LORD.”

At the breaches made in the city walls, as cattle hurry through

gaps in a fence. Thus they should go forth when Samaria was taken. Every

cow at that which is before her; better, each straight before her, just

where the opening offered itself (compare Joshua 6:5,20). The Septuagint

inserts gumnai> - gumnai - “naked.” And ye shall cast them into the palace;

Septuagint, Kai< ajporjrJifh>sesqe eijv to< o]rov to< JRomma>n,

Kai aporriphaesesthe eis to oros to Romman, “And ye shall be cast forth into

the mountain Romman; Vulgate, et projiciemini in Armon. The Syriac and

Arabic Versions, and Aquila, render, “unto Mount Armon;” the Chaldee

paraphrast, “far beyond the mountains of Armenia.” The Hebrew expression

haharmonah occurs nowhere else. Our version takes it in the sense of armon,

 a palace,” intending probably a palace or citadel of the enemy, which certainly

ought to have been expressed. Kimchi renders, “Ye shall cast yourselves into the

palace of the king.” The passage is probably corrupt. If the verb is taken as

passive, the unusual word must be considered to denote the place of

banishment. Thus, “Ye shall be cast forth into Harmon.” Whether Harmon

means Armenia, as many ancient commentators thought, or not, cannot be

determined. Various opinions may be seen in Keil, Schegg, Trochon, and

others; but the simplest explanation is that of Orelli and Ewald, viz. that

each fugitive shall fling away her idol Rimmona (the wife of the god

Rimmon II Kings 5:18), in order to be more free for flight (compare Isaiah




The Woes of the Women at Ease (vs. 1-3)


By a contemptuous and striking figure, the women of Samaria are styled

the kine of Bashan.” They were as cattle, unmindful of the past, unheeding

of the future, their attention limited to the present, and living in it only the

life of sense. They were as Bashan’s kine, wandering in richest pastures,

overfed, indulged, and pampered, and therefore waxed voluptuous and

wanton. In explanation of the special reference to them, observe:



LESS RESPONSIBLE FOR ITS SINS. This appears from the fact that:


Ø      They reflect the national character. Soft, and easily receptive of

influence, whether good or bad, the female character is, to a greater

extent than the male, a compound tincture of the prevailing qualities

of the land and time. It is natural that, as reflecting the national sin,

the women will be obnoxious to national punishment.


Ø      They form the national character. They have earliest, most

constant, and most affectionate access to the young. They influence

character at its softest and most pliant stage, and they approach it,

moreover, on its softest side. Reflecting national character so truly,

and impressing this so inevitably on the rising generation, it is through

them chiefly that good or evil becomes hereditary in society.


“O woman, nature made thee

  To temper man.”

                        (Thomas Otway)


The “tempering” is oftener for good than ill, converting into porcelain the

common clay, purifying and ennobling all she comes near.


“Woman’s empire, holier, more refined,

Molds, moves, and sways the fallen yet God-breathed mind.”


But if she reigns as the devil’s vicegerent, if the influences that go

 Forth from her tend to the enthronement of corruption and wrong,

 she must be deposed as a matter of policy, and punished as a matter

of justice (Isaiah 3:16-24; 32:9-13).



GOD AS A COURSE THAT INFLICTS IT. The evil a woman does

outside her family circle is largely indirect. Of the women of Israel it

appears that:


Ø      They were self-indulgent at the necessary expense of the poor.

“Which oppress the humble, which crush the needy.This would

sometimes be done directly, but generally through the agency of the

men. A luxurious mistress often makes a hard and oppressive master.

Her extravagant demands must be met by an increased income, and

that is only too likely to be sought in exactions from the dependent

poor. Let it be in overcharged dues or in underpaid work, in every

case the luxury that forces on the demand is responsible for the evils

of the enforced supply. “Those at ease often know not that their luxuries

are continually watered by the tears of the poor… but God counts willful

ignorance no excuse. Hood’s stanza, addressed to men, is doubly

pertinent to women:


“O men with sisters dear!

      O men with mothers and wives!

It is not linen you’re wearing out,

    But human creatures’ lives.”


The self-indulgence of the women of Israel meant really the grinding of the

poor, out of whose poverty “their lords” were; driven to wring the means

of carrying on their shameful excesses.


Ø      They encouraged their husbands in self-indulgence. “Bring, and

let us drink.” This was a doubling of the evil. They not only did wrong,

but tempted others to do it. They wasted much, and procured the wasting

of more. They were at pains to increase the number of harpies who would

gorge themselves on the hard earnings of the poor.


Ø      This was not an isolated act, but a habit. “Oppress” is equivalent to

are continually oppressing.” Luxury had settled into a chronic social evil.

The demand for fuel to feed the fire of indulgence was constant. It was A


CONTINUALLY  and devouring, generation after generation, the

inheritance of the poor. The evil of it smelled rank to Heaven, and

the guilt of it clamored for punishment.



THE SINNER’S PUNISHMENT. “The Lord Jehovah hath sworn by His

holiness.” The occasions of God’s action are often supplied by men, but

the grounds of it are in Himself — in the perfections of His character and

the purposes of His will.


Ø      Holiness is Gods characteristic quality. There is a universal

ascription of it to Him in Scripture (Exodus 15:11; Isaiah 6:1-3; 57:15;

Habakkuk 1:13). Absolutely His “name is holy;” relatively He is the

“Holy One of Israel.” This holiness is an infinite contrariety to all that

is morally impure. It characterizes all His other perfections, and is, in this

aspect, not so much a distinct attribute as THE BLENDING



HIS HOLINESS (Psalm 89:35; 47:8); believers are the people of

His holiness, and heaven the habitation of His holiness (Isaiah 63:15,

18); whilst a synonym for the consecrated life is “holiness to the Lord.”


Ø      Gods holiness was the quality specially profaned. (ch.2:7.) It

was to profane His holy Name that they had sinned. The perfection

specially sinned against is naturally the one to be vindicated. “He pledges

His own holiness that He will avenge their unholiness. Jealous of all

His perfections, the one our conduct tends to obscure or hurt is the one

God will most emphatically illustrate and glorify.


Ø      Holiness is the quality that makes punishment of sin inevitable.

It is the recoil of God’s infinitely pure nature from moral evil. It is the

Expression and sum of an essential and external antagonism to it. It is

Incompatible with impurity as light is with darkness, and its necessary

and natural action toward it is destructive. Fundamentally it is because




MATCH AND SQUARE WITH HIS SIN. (vs. 2-3.) Here the

dovetailing of RETRIBUTION with CRIME is very complete.

There would be:


Ø      Deportation from luxurious scenes. “I will take you away.” The

indulgences becoming habitual would be violently interrupted. The

luxurious and vicious tastes, developed into tremendous strength by

long continued sensuality, would be deprived of their gratification.

Instead of the high living, become by long enjoyment a thing of course,

and a necessity of their life, they would have the coarse and scanty fare

of slaves. To visit with want and bondage, when habits of rule and

luxury have become a second nature, is a judgment bitterly felt.

(One that will be felt in America very keenly when the god of

materialism comes down – instead of “it’s the economy

Stupid, it will be, it is THE FISCAL CLIFF STUPID

Mankind cannot sin and be economically blessed! - CY – 2013).


Ø      This in a violent and painful manner. “With hooks.” The figure

is drawn from fishing. The drawing out of the fish by means of a hook

is always painful, and is rendered doubly so by its resistance. So

with the soft and delicately nurtured women of Samaria in the hands

of a rough and brutal soldiery. They would suffer as a fish transfixed

by a barbed hook, and their former luxury would be in a sense its

own avenger.


Ø      This to the last one. “And your last one with fish hooks.” Not

one should escape. God’s judgments are particular. He does not

visit people in the mass, but individuals. Not a cow but would feel

the cut of the drover’s whip, and experience the famine pangs of

the scanty pasture.


Ø      This in connections with their own lusts as auxiliaries. The hook

that draws out the fish has been baited for it, and voluntarily swallowed,

though under a wrong impression. In heathen luxury and dissolution the

Hebrew women found a bait which they swallowed greedily. Now they

should find that, with the bait, they had swallowed also a cruel hook,

which would draw them away to suffer evils worse than they had

themselves inflicted. “And be cast away to Harman” (Authorized

Version, “into the palace”), i.e. probably Armenia. Here, being used

to minister to heathenish luxury and lust, they would be victims in the

matter in which they had been so long the victimizers of others. There

is a nameless cruelty in debauchery, WHICH ONLY THE

VICTIMS OF IT KNOW!   This, with the added burden of

heathen horrors, the delicate and pampered Israelitish women

would now suffer. Their punishment would rise upon them in

familiar shape, the resurrection of their own sin.


Ø      The bovine stolidity of their prosperous days would make them

helpless as driven cattle in the day of calamity. “In the wall ye

 shall go out every one before her,” i.e. as a herd of cows go one

after another through a gap in the fence (Having been raised on a

dairy farm, I can vouch for this – CY – 2013). THE LEVEL OF




but I see it! – CY – 2013).   The penalty of living the brutes’ life

of sense is a weakening of THE HEAVENLY GIFT OF

REASON, by which we are distinguished from them.

(“But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and

destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand

not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption;

And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness…” –

II Peter 2:12-13a)


4 “Come to Bethel, and transgress; at Gilgal multiply transgression;

and bring your sacrifices every morning, and your tithes after three

years:”  The prophet now turns to Israel, and ironically bids them exhibit

their zeal for idolatry, and thus increase their guilt. Bethel; as the chief seat

of idol worship (ch. 3:14). At Gilgal; rather, to Gilgal, “come ye”

being repeated in thought. Gilgal was a strong position in the plain of

Jordan, three miles east of Jericho, taking its name probably from the stone

circles erected for purposes of worship in very early times. Joshua

(Joshua 5:9) gave a new meaning to the old name. There is a large pool

of water in this neighborhood called Jil-julieh, about four miles from the

Jordan, which is doubtless a corruption of the ancient name Gilgal. It

seems to have been regarded as a holy place in Samuel’s days or even

before (see Judges 3:19; I Samuel 7:16; 10:8; 11:14; 13:8); and later

was appropriated to false worship, though we have no information as to

the date of this declension. Gilgal and Bethel are associated together in

idolatrous worship (ch. 5:5 and in Hosea 4:15; 9:15; 12:11). Bring your

sacrifices every morning. They were careful to maintain the outward semblance

of the regular Levitical worship, even beyond the letter of the Law in some

respects, though their service was ALL  THE TIME IDOLATRY. As this and

the following clause are still ironical, Amos is speaking, not of the daily-prescribed

sacrifice (olah, Numbers 28:3), but of the offerings (zebach) of individual

Israelites which were not required to be presented every day. Your tithes after

three years; literally, on the three of days; lishlosheth yamim; Vulgate, tribus

diebus; Septuagint, eijv trihmeri>an eis taen triaemerian -  “every third day.”

Revised Version, “every three days.”  The prophet bids them bring their tithes,

not as the Law ordered, every year (Leviticus 27:30), or, as in the case of the

second tithe, every three years (Deuteronomy 14:28; 26:12), but, by an ironical

exaggeration, “every three days.” Dr. Pusey defends the English Version on

the ground of the idiomatic use of “days” for one circle of days, i.e. a year

(Leviticus 25:29; Judges 17:10; I Samuel 27:7). But this loses the irony which

is so marked in the whole passage. Keil, “If ye would offer slain sacrifices

every morning, and tithe every three days, ye would only thereby increase

your apostasy from the living God.”


5 “And offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, and proclaim

and publish the free offerings: for this liketh you, O ye children of

Israel, saith the Lord GOD.”  Offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven;

more definitely, offer by burning a thank offering of that which is leavened.

This is an alteration of the prescribed ritual in two particulars. The Law

forbade leaven in any meat offering consumed by fire (Leviticus 2:11; 7:12);

and if it allowed cakes of leavened bread to be offered on one occasion,

these were not to be placed on the altar and burned, but one was to be

assigned to the officiating priest, and the rest eaten at the sacrificial meal

(Leviticus 7:13-14). The ironical charge to the Israelites is that in their

unlicensed zeal they should not only burn on the altar that which was

leavened, but, with the idea of being more bountiful, they should also offer

.by fire that which was to be set apart for other uses. The Septuagint

Version can only be explained by considering the translators to have had a

different reading, kai< ajne>gnwsan e]gw no>mon kai anegnosan exo nomon

 and they read the Law without.Proclaim… publish. Make public

proclamation that free will offerings are to be made, or else, like the Pharisees

(Matthew 6:2), announce with ostentation that you are about to offer. The

essence of such offerings was that they should be voluntary, not of command or

compulsion (Leviticus 22:18, etc.; Deuteronomy 12:6). Septuagint,

kai< ejpekale>santo oJmologi>av - kai epekalesanto homologies  “and called

for public professions” (Ibid. vs.17-18). This liketh you; this ye love;

Septuagint, “Proclaim ye that the children of Israel loved these things.” THEIR



6 “And I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and

want of bread in all your places: yet have ye not returned unto me,

saith the LORD.”  In this and the five following verses God sets forth instances

of the judgments which He had sent at various times to correct Israel; viz.

famine, drought, blight, pestilence, earthquake; but all had been in vain.

Five times recurs the sad refrain, “Yet have ye not returned unto me, saith

the Lord.” God’s unwearied love had not conquered their REBELLION!

Cleanness of teeth; Septuagint, gomfiasmo<n ojdo>ntwn gomphiasmon

Odonton - dulness of teeth; Vulgate, stuporem dentium. It is not “toothache”

that is meant, but famine, as is seen by the parallel term, want of bread; as

Corn. a Lapide says, “Cum enim in fame et penuria dentes non habent quod

mordeant et mandant, innocentes sunt et mundi.” This is the first chastisement

mentioned. It was threatened in the Law as a consequence of backsliding

(see Leviticus 26.; Deuteronomy 28:48, 57). The famines to which

Amos alludes are not recorded. Plainly they were not fortuitous, but were

providential inflictions, in accordance with previous warnings Yet have ye

not returned unto me. Pusey notes that the words imply, not that they

returned not at all, but that they did after a fashion return, but not so as to

reach God, their repentance being a half-repentance and their worship a

half-worship, and therefore unacceptable.


7 “And also I have withholden the rain from you, when there were yet

three months to the harvest: and I caused it to rain upon one city,

and caused it not to rain upon another city: one piece was rained upon,

and the piece whereupon it rained not withered.” The second punishment

is drought, as predicted (Leviticus 26:19, etc.; Deuteronomy 28:23-24).

When there were yet three months to the harvest, and when rain was most

necessary to swell the grain. The season meant is in February and March, when

what was called “the latter rain” fell. In the south of Palestine the harvest commenced

at the end of April, but in the northern parts it was some weeks later, so that it might be

said in round numbers that it took place three months after the latter rain. I caused it

to rain upon one city. That they might not attribute this drought to the blind

laws of nature, God caused it to be of a partial character, giving rain to one

city while He withheld it from another. One piece. The portion of ground

belonging to an individual is so called (Deuteronomy 33:21; Ruth 2:3; 4:3).


8 “So two or three cities wandered unto one city, to drink water; but

they were not satisfied: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the

LORD.” This want of rain produced great dearth of water to drink, and

persons had to go long distances to procure supplies. Wandered; literally

trembled, staggered, as spent and exhausted by thirst. The word is used in

Psalm 59:15; 109:10. The supply thus used was soon exhausted, and

brought no permanent relief.  (Two verses of Scripture come to me when

I think along the lines of this verse.


  • “If thou has run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee,

then how canst thou contend with horses?  And if in the land

of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how

wilt thou do in the swelling of the Jordan?” (Jeremiah 12:5)


  • “And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and

power was given unto him to scorch men with fire.  And men

were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of

God, which hath power over these plagues:  and they

repented not to give Him glory.  And the fifth angel poured

out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was


FOR PAIN.  And blasphemed the God of heaven because of

 their pains and their sores, AND REPENTED NOT OF

THEIR DEEDS!”  Revelation 16:9-11 – CY – 2013)


9 “I have smitten you with blasting and mildew: when your gardens and your

vineyards and your fig trees and your olive trees increased, the  palmerworm

devoured them: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD.”

The third chastisement is occasioned by blight and palmerworm  (Deuteronomy

28:22,39,42).  Blasting; the scorching east wind spoken of by Isaiah (Isaiah 27:8)

and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 17:10). Vulgate, in vento urente; Septuagint, ejn purw>sei

en purosei -  with parching.” Mildew; a blight, under the influence of which the

ears of corn turned yellow and became unfruitful. “Blasting and mildew” are

mentioned together in Moses’ curse (Deuteronomy 28:22) and in Solomon’s

dedication prayer (I Kings 8:37; compare Haggai 2:17). The Septuagint

has, ejn ijkte>rw| - en iktero -  “with jaundice.” When your gardens…

increased. It is better to take this sentence as the English margin, “The

multitude of your gardens… hath the palmerworm devoured.” So the

Vulgate, Multitudinem hortorum tuorumcomedit eruca. Gardens

included orchards, herbaries, and pleasure grounds. The palmerworm;

gazam; Septuagint, ka>mph kampae - Vulgate, eruca. The word occurs in Joel

1:4; 2:25, and is taken by many commentators to mean some kind of

locust; but it is more probable that the Greek and Latin translators are right

in regarding it as “a caterpillar” . Amos seems to be referring to the visitation in

Joel’s time, if we take gazam (“biter”) to be a kind of locust.


10 “I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt:

your young men have I slain with the sword, and have taken away

your horses; and I have made the stink of your camps to come up

unto your nostrils: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the

LORD.”  The fourth visitation is pestilence and the sword (Leviticus 26:25;

Deuteronomy 28:60). After the manner of Egypt. IN THE MANNER

IN WHICH EGYPT WAS STRICKEN   compare Isaiah10:24, 26;

Ezekiel 20:30). There is here no reference to the plague  of Exodus 9:3, etc.,

or 12:29. The allusion is to the plague which was reckoned to be epidemic in

Egypt, and to other loathsome diseases for which that country was

notorious (see Deuteronomy 7:15; 28:27, 60) Sir G. Wilkinson notes

that the plague used to occur about every ten years (‘Handbook,’ p. 7).

Your young men have I slain with the sword. Pestilence and war are

allied scourges in Leviticus 26:25. A reference may here be made to the

wars with the Syrians, wherein the Israelites suffered heavy losses (II Kings

6:25; 8:12; 13:3, 7, 22). And have taken away your horses; rather,

together with your captive horses, still under the regimen of “I have slain.”

The destruction of men and horses is mentioned in II Kings 13:7. The

stink of your camps. These unburied caresses caused pestilence in the

district. Septuagint, Kai< ajnh>gagon ejn puri<ta<v parembola<v ejn th~|

ojrgh~| uJmw~n Kai anaegagon en puritas parembolas en tae humon -

or, according to the Alexandrian manuscript, parembola<v uJmw~n ejn

th~| ojrgh|~ mou parembolas humon en tae orgae mou -  “In my wrath

against you I set fire to your camps.”


11 “I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and

Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning:

yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD.” The fifth visitation

is the earthquake (Deuteronomy 29:23). I have overthrown. This is the word

used to describe the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:25;

Jeremiah 20:16), and it seems better to refer the occurrence mentioned to some

such convulsions of nature which caused widespread destruction.  We do not

know anything about the particular earthquake to which the prophet alludes.

As God overthrew. The substitution of the name of God for the personal pronoun,

when the Lord Himself is speaking, is not uncommon in Hebrew. Here it

rather takes the form of a quotation from Genesis. Ye were as a firebrand

plucked out of the burning (Zechariah 3:2, where see note) — a

phrase which implies, not only a NARROW ESCAPE  but an escape

accompanied WITH LOSS!   The “brand” not wholly consumed is yet

blackened and diminished by the burning.



Burning, Yet not Turning (v. 11)


From Moses to Amos was about seven hundred years. It is a long time

with men and the works of men. But it is little in the two eternities through

which the purposes of God extend. There were prophecies which it had

taken all this period to mature; courses of treatment for the cure of sin

pursued through all the interval, and whose last measure had not yet been

taken. One of these finds record here. A new event looks out at us in the

guise of an ancient prophecy (Deuteronomy 29:22-25). What seven

centuries before had been conceived in the womb of time is here “delivered

upon the mellowing of occasion.”


  • GOD’S JUDGMENTS A FIRE. “Plucked out of the burning.” A

commentary on this figure is the association by Isaiah of “the spirit of

judgment and “the spirit of burning” (Isaiah 4:4). Like a fire:


Ø      Judgments are painful. The sensation of burning is about the

most painful we know. Too severe for capital punishment, too

cruel even for prisoners of war, death by burning has been generally

reserved for the martyred saints. This intensest form of physical pain is

a fitting symbol of the effects of God’s inflictions. What He sends is the

greatest of its kind. If it be pleasure it is ideal — a pleasure at His right

hand forevermore (Psalm 16:11). If it be pain it is phenomenal — a

torment whose smoke ascendeth up forever and ever.

(Revelation 14:11)


Ø      They are consuming. What fire feeds on it destroys. Where the flames

have passed no organic matter remains. So with God’s judgments. They

are the mills of God which “grind exceeding small.” That on which they

must fall “they destroy and consume unto the end.” They are nothing if

not adequate to their purpose.


Ø      They are purifying. By burning out what is inflammable they leave what

is incombustible behind, unmixed and pure. This idea of refining is often

associated with the fires of judgment (Zechariah 13:9; Malachi 3:2-3).

They seize on the dross of evil, and burn it out of the mass. When their

work is done there is only the fine gold of a pure nature in the



Ø      They are irresistible. Fuel, in contact with fire, can do nothing but burn.

If the flame is to be quenched it must be done by some extra agency. To

be as “tow” or “stubble” in the flames (Isaiah 1:31, Malachi 4:1) is

the strongest possible figure for helplessness under the avenging

stroke of God.  Men cannot prevent it, cannot avoid it, cannot arrest it,

cannot in any degree reduce its force. When He works “who shall let it”?

When His day burns as an oven, who shall withstand the fire

(Isaiah 43:13; Malachi 4:1)?



a firebrand.” There are certain steps which lead up to burning, whether

literal or figurative. The brand was:


Ø      Withered. It is not on the sappy growing branch that the fire seizes.

Before, in the natural course, it reaches the flames, a preliminary

process has been finished. Its leaf yellows and falls, its bark shrivels,

its sap dries up. Then it is mere tinder, and fit for nothing but the fire.

So SIN WITHERS AND KILLS the branches of the tree of

human character. It dries up the sap of spiritual life, and so

turns sere the leaf of profession, and destroys the fruit of well doing.

In a little no function of life is possible, and all its uses are lost. To

cut it down is all the husbandman can do, and to burn it follows in

the natural course.


Ø      Brought to the flames. There are no prairie fires in God’s domain. What

is burned is first prepared, and then bound in bundles (Matthew 13:30)

and then set fire to. There is no accident anywhere. The man by his ill

doing makes himself tinder, and God in His providence uses him for the

only purpose he suits.


Ø      Combustible. Fire seeks out and feeds on what is most inflammable.

There is an affinity between the two things that does not fail to bring

them together. So with God’s avenging fires and the fuel they consume.

The vultures of His judgments spy out, and alight upon the carrion of

the sinner’s lusts. Every transgression of the written Law is a

transgression also of the unwritten law of the nature of things, and brings

punishment on and through the instrument of the sin.



“Plucked out of the burning.” This language implies:


Ø      A narrow escape. The brand had been in the fire, and actually alight.

A little while and it would have been inextinguishable. The fires of

judgment had been around Israel, and around her close and long.

If she had been in them but a little longer she could not have

 come out alive. The narrowness of her escape was a fact charged

with the double influence of fear as to what might have been, and

gratitude for what actually was.  This is directly opposite of the



“Of all the words of tongue or pen,

 the saddest are these, What might have been.”

                                    {John Greenleaf Whittier}


Ø      An escape with a certain amount of injury. The brand that has

been alight has suffered. Its fair surface has been scathed and charred.

It can never be its original self again. Such a thing was Israel.

“Once it had been green, fresh, fragrant, with leaf or flower; now

scorched, charred, blackened, all but consumed. In itself it was fit

for nothing but to be cast back into the fire whence it had been

rescued. Man would so deal with it, a recreation alone could restore it.



HALF CONSUMED,  in itself meet only for the everlasting fire,



Ø      An escape managed for an important purpose. God tries all means

before going to extremities. He threatens, menaces, sets fire to, and

scorches, yet after all delays to consume.


o       This gives the sinner A FINAL OPPORTUNITY of

reconsidering his relation to sin. It is possible that A


embraced for the very reason that it is the last one. THE


problem of a man’s relation to the Prince of life, and is likely

to modify the solution.


o       It gives him a chance of viewing sin in the light of its effects.

The charred brand knows the taste of the fire. The ultimate like the

 immediate punishment of sin is burning (Mark 9:43-44). The

plagued sinner has tasted THE FIRST-FRUITS OF HIS

TERRIBLE RETRIBUTION!   He can argue from it what

the harvest will be. THIS IS ALL IN FAVOR  of his profiting

 under the dispensation.



Israel had not repented, and WAS NOT GOING TO REPENT.

 Rescued from the flame in UNSPEAKABLE MERCY  for a season,


BURNED!   This unconquerable hardness was that:


Ø      Of a nature that had strayed. The hardest sinner is the apostate.

He sins against light, against blessings received, against experience

enjoyed, against gracious influences felt. To have beaten down, and

sinned in spite of all these deterrents, argues a hardness and

determination that the stranger to gracious influences has not had an

opportunity of acquiring. Paul tells us that those who have so sinned

cannot be “renewed to repentance”  (Hebrews 6:4-6).


Ø      Of a nature that had been hardened by punishment. There is a

degree of induration in the back that has experienced the lash. The

brand put into the fire and taken out again is hardened by the process.

The criminal often leaves the prison more callous than he entered it.

So with the subjects of Divine judgment. If they are not melted by it

they are indurated. Hatred to God and love to the sin are intensified,

rebelliousness is stirred up, self-will is put on its mettle, and so

MORAL INSENSIBILITY is increased by the process of resistance.


Ø      Of a nature in which sin is supreme. In most natures there is a

struggle between good and evil. It is largely a question of circumstances,

which will preponderate at any given time. Temptation is resisted

sometimes, and sometimes yielded to, according to our mood and the

manner in which it is brought to bear, This indicates a STATE OF

WAR  between the law in the members and the law in the mind,

 victory inclining to Israel or to Amalek as the hands of conscience are

upheld. But when a man sins invariably, under whatever pressure of

temptation, and when there is no temptation at all — sins in spite of all

conceivable deterrent circumstances — the case is different.


He says to evil:

“Be thou my good.”

            (MiltonParadise Lost)


His moral nature is inverted. He will not mold into a vessel of mercy

now.   He is “a vessel of wrath and fitted for destruction.”

                        (Romans 9:22)


12 “Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do

this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.”  Therefore. Because all

previous judgments have been in vain, therefore will I send upon them

 SOMETHING MORE TERRIBLE STILL!   Thus. God says not how;

He leaves the nature of the coming chastisement in mysterious uncertainty, that

the very suspense may work fear and repentance. Because I will do this

(pointing back to the mysterious “thus” above) unto thee; because I AM


PUNISHMENT!   Prepare to meet thy God; Septuagint, jEtoima>zou tou~

ejpikalei~sqai to<n Qeo>n souetoimazou tou epikaleisthai ton Theon sou

Prepare to call upon thy God.” Make ready to meet thy God in judgment,

turning to Him with changed heart, if perchance He may forgive thee and withdraw

His heavy hand.


13 “For, lo, He that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and

declareth unto man what is his thought, that maketh the morning

darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, The LORD,

The God of hosts, is His name.”  The prophet enforces his threats  by declaring

GOD’S POWER  and OMNISCIENCE!   He that formeth the mountain;

The mountains are mentioned as the most solid and everlasting of God’s works;

the wind, as the subtlest and most immaterial of created things. Declareth

unto man what is his thought; i.e. man’s thought; reveals man to himself shows

that God knows man’s thought BEFORE HE PUTS IT INTO WORDS!

(thou understandest my thought afar off”  - Psalm 139:2).   This He does

sometimes by the stings of conscience, sometimes by inspiring His prophets to

declare men’s secret motives and the real state of their heart (see Jeremiah 17:9-l0;

and compare I John 3:20). Many of the Fathers have seen here a prophesy of the

Messiah. That maketh the morning darkness. Keil, after Calvin, takes these

words as asyndeton for “the morning dawn and darkness.” So the Septuagint,

poiw~n o[rqron kai< oJmi>clhnpoion hopthron kai homichlaen -  making

morning and gloom” - a further instance of GOD’S CREATIVE POWER!

 The Vulgate gives, faciens matutinam nebulam; and it seems probable

(compare 5:8; 8:9) that the clause means that the Lord turns the dawn into darkness.

This may refer to the action of clouds or an eclipse; or it may be said metaphorically

of prosperity and adversity. Treadeth upon the high places of the earth. An

anthropomorphic representation of THE MIGHT AND MAJESTY OF GOD

 who governs all things, and has the loftiest in perfect subjection (compare

Deuteronomy 32:13; 33:29; Job 9:8; Micah 1:3). The Lord, JEHOVAH,


in these things manifests Himself, and therefore His threats are not to be despised

(ch.5:8).   The laws and powers of nature have their scope  in




Preparation for Meeting God (vs. 12-13)


“Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this

unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.” All the means that had

been employed to reform the Israelites having proved ineffectual, they are



 To this judgment reference is emphatically made in the terms jk, ‘thus;’

and jaz, ‘this.’ There is a brief resumption of the sentence delivered in vs. 2-3.

We raise three observations from these words.



“Prepare to meet thy God.” “I shall see God,” says Job: “whom I shall

 see for myself, ……and not another.” (Job 19:26-27) Yes, we shall all

see God. All men ought ever and everywhere to see Him, for He is the great

Object in the horizon, nearer to them infinitely than aught besides. But they

do not. Their spiritual eye is so closed that they see him not

(I Corinthians 2:14); they are utterly unconscious of His presence.

But see Him they must one day. All must be brought into conscious contact

with Him, and in His presence they will feel the greatest things in the universe

melt into nothing.  The atheist who denies His existence shall see God; the

worldling who ignores His existence shall see God; the theologian who

misrepresents His existence shall see God. WE MUST ALL SEE






Ø      To meet Him; reconciliation is needed. Practically we are at enmity

with Him. How shall an enemy stand in his presence? Who does not

feel uneasy and even distressed when he confronts a man he hates,

although the man may have no disposition and no power whatever to

injure him? How will the soul with enmity in its heart then

confront GOD?  “I beseech you then in Christ’s stead, BE

YE RECONCILED TO GOD.”  (II Corinthians 5:20)


Ø      To meet Him, moral purity is necessary. How will a consciously

corrupt soul feel in the presence of ABSOLUTE HOLINESS?

How are the flames of hell kindled? By the rays of Divine holiness

falling on corrupt spirits.


“Eternal Light, eternal Light,

     How pure the soul must be,

When, placed within thy searching sight,

It shrinks not, but with calm delight

   Can live and look on thee!”





Ø      His procedure is terribly judicial “Therefore thus will I do unto

thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare

 to meet thy God, O Israel.” He was approaching the sinner in

judgment, moving towards him judicially. He was coming towards

the Israelites as AN AVENGER.   And so He is ever coming

towards wicked men. PREPARE, THEREFORE, TO MEET

HIM!  He is coming as A JUDGE — slowly it may be, but surely

and terribly.


Ø      His procedure is overwhelming grand. “Lo, he that formeth the

mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is

his thought, that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon

the high places of the earth, THE LORD, THE GOD OF

HOSTS, IS HIS NAME.”  This magnificent description of

Jehovah is given in order to URGE THE CALL TO

 PREPARATION!  The one mighty, loud, unceasing voice of

God to man through all nature, history, and special revelation is,




Judgment the Divine Retort to Human Sin (vs. 6-13)


This is the sad history of God’s vain contending with AN INCORRIGIBLE

NATION!  In ch. 3  is an account of the mercies by which He at first had tried

to draw them. All that had failed utterly. They met privilege with unappreciation,

friendship with rebuff, and favor with INCREDIBLE DISREGARD!

Then He had changed His tactics. They would not be drawn, perhaps they

might be driven. The experiment was worth the making, and the record of

it is in these verses.



one gift which he could bestow, one only out of the rich storehouse of his

mercies, since all besides were abused — chastisement. This He



Ø      In diverse forms. He reduced them by famine, which often acts as a

moral depletive, by cutting off its supply from, lust. He plagued them with

pestilence — a visitation that strikes terror into the boldest hearts. He

slew them with the sword of their enemies — a fate which has terrors

peculiarly its own. He swallowed them up in earthquakes — the most

portentous and awful of earthly phenomena.  (In our day He is using

tsunamis for whatever good it is doing; hurricanes in the form of

Katrina and Sandy, and if these don’t work, read the book of

Ezekiel where it will tell you sixty-two [62] times that “and they

shall know that I am the Lord.” – See Ezekiel – The Study

of God’s Use of the Word Know – this web site – CY – 2013)


Ø      In increasing severity. Famine is direful, but it is directed primarily

against the means of life. Pestilence is ghastlier, for it is directed against

the life itself. The sword is more terrible than either, for it takes the life

with circumstances of cruelty, which are an added horror. The

earthquake is the most terror-moving of all, for it summons the

overwhelming forces of nature to our destruction.  (The TV

show “Cops” has a catchy tune it plays throughout – the words

repeated are “Bad Boys, Bad Boys, whatcha goin do, whatcha

goin do, when they come for you” – I ask the same question –

California is not the only place in this country sitting on a fault line –

[San Andreas] – where I am sitting typing this, is another –

[New Madrid] – in 1812 and 1813 – two hundred years ago – there

was this gigantic earthquake, which fortunately, was in an area

 thinly populated – not so now – time is ticking – America is sinning

profusely our leaders have no clue, or if they do, they have a satanic

agenda to lead us down the wrong path – overspending; gun control

based on lying propaganda; abortion, a sacred cow;  Al Jeezera

getting a foothold in the American television market; Second Baptist

Church being taken off the air by Time-Warner; a deceptive

national media sold out to purposes directly opposite of a

Judeao-Christian culture; etc. ad nauseumback to the

 task at hand – American citizen, saint or sinner, ARE YOU READY



GET YOUR ATTENTION?  Worse still, as v.12 says, ARE YOU


HE COMES AGAIN?  If you don’t know now, when it happens, you

will know then, Perhaps too late.  TO DAY IS THE DAY OF

SALVATION!    I highly recommend How to Be Saved – #5 – this

web site – CY – 2013)


Ø      With differentiating circumstances in different cases. There was

nothing humdrum in the visitations, no pitching them on the dead level of

hackneyism or prescription.


o       The DROUGHT came three months before harvest. This

was a most unseasonable and fatal time. It was in February, just

when the latter rain was due. (Christian County is a great

agricultural county in Kentucky – it is not unusual, during both

seedtime and harvest, for there to be farmers working on the

Lord’s day, as if they cannot have a crop based on the promises

of God and must needs take the situation into their own hands –

2012 was not a good crop year in Kentucky – remember

II Chronicles 7:14 - CY – 2013)  The seed would be braided,

or just in the stage in which rain was the one thing absolutely

essential to life and growth. Drought at this season “is utterly

ruinous to the hopes of the farmer. A little earlier or a little later

would not be so fatal, but drought three months before harvest

is entirely destructive.


o       It came on one place and not on another. Ordinarily the

showers fall impartially on everyone. They water the fields of the

just and the unjust alike (Matthew 5:45). They refresh the

wilderness where no man is, as abundantly as the cultivated land,

with its teeming population (Job 38:26). When they become

eclectic, falling on one city or field and not on another, this


When, as probably in this case (see Proverbs 3:33), the

watered fields or cities are those of the righteous, the

adjustment is eloquent of the moral government of a God

who hates sin (Isaiah 65:13). On the artificially irrigated

gardens, where drought would not readily tell, He sent

blasting, mildew, and worms (v. 9).  In the repertory

of nature He found an instrument of destruction suited

to every possible case, and in the allocation of these was

revealed His omnipotent and resourceful hand.

 The overthrow of “some” when others escaped (v. 11)

was a providence burdened with the same lesson.


o       The cause and its effect are set close together for

 identification. “The piece whereupon it rained not

withered,” etc. The nearer results are to their

causes the easier it is to see the connection between them.

God, both in the visitation and the record of it, pointedly


and the withering with the drought, and thus puts His




o       In minute correspondence to prophetic warnings. They

were plagued with pestilence “after the manner of Egypt

(v. 10). This Moses had circumstantially announced would

be the result of disobeying the Law revealed on Sinai

(Deuteronomy 28:27, 60), whilst IMMUNITY FROM IT

was promised in connection with FEALTY and

OBEDIENCE (Ibid. 7:15). Then, with blood curdling

explicitness (vs. 6-7, 10), famine, pestilence, the sword,

 and desolation (Leviticus 26:23-33), blasting,

mildew, drought, and locusts (v. 9; Deuteronomy 28:21-26,

38, 42), and, to crown all, destruction and ruin, as of Sodom

and Gomorrah (Ibid. ch.29:22-28), are piled (v. 11), Ossa on

Pelion, in prophetic intimation to Israel to be “upon thee for

 a sign and for a wonder, and upon thy seed forever”

(Deuteronomy 28:46). In all this the work of identifying

national judgments, as from a pledge keeping and sin-avenging

Jehovah, is made easy to all BUT THE WILFULLY



  • THEIR MEAGRE RESULTS. Judgments fell thick and wide in five

varieties of terror moving severity and appositeness, and five times the

prophet, gleaning vainly after the scythes of God for a grain of good result,

can but repeat the sadly reproachful refrain, “Yet ye have not returned

unto me, saith the Lord.”


Ø      The sinner refuses to believe that his affliction is punishment.

He attributes it to accident, or bad management, or natural causes, or

the malice of others, as the case may be. While unconscious of his sin,

he is necessarily blind to the significance of his suffering, and until he

sees this he cannot profit by it. If men would “hear the rod and who

 hath appointed it” (Micah 6:9), they would have realized a primary

condition of improvement under it.


Ø      Suffering is not in itself purifying. A bad man it often makes worse.

He wants to “curse God and die”at Satan’s suggestion through Job’s

wife (Job 2:9; Revelation 16:9).  Even if the hardening stops short of this,

he is frequently soured and embittered. Suffering, to be beneficial, must

not go alone. It prepares for other measures. It makes men more

amenable to moral influence, but if no such influence be brought to bear

in connection with it, it is no more fitted of itself to purify the character

than plowing is to fertilize the desert sand.  “Bray a fool in a mortar,

 yet will not his folly depart from him.” (Proverbs 27:22).


Ø      The love of sin is stronger than the fear of suffering. Courses,

which all observation and experience declare to be ruinous to health

 and happiness, are entered on DELIBERATELY by millions.

Even the physical evil consequences of the early steps in sinful indulgence,

which are soon felt, do not arrest the evil doer in his way. By the

confirmed sinner HELL ITSELF is practically, if not consciously,

 PREFERRED TO REFORMATION.   Only what weakens the

love of sin secures the successful application of suffering for its removal.

The operation of one or other of these principles, or the concurrence

of them all, no doubt accounted for Israel’s persistent sinning even in

the fire.



HIMSELF. “Therefore thus will I do unto thee”. The terror of these

words is in nothing lessened by their vagueness. It is evident rather:


Ø      That the thing menaced would in point of severity be an

advance upon all that had yet been done. Only thus would there

be any use in adopting it. After expostulation the rod, and after the

rod a sword — that is the logical order of corrective measures.

 “Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon thee,” (John 5:14)

was a foreshadowing of GOD’S CONSISTENT POLICY!


Ø      It would involve being brought face to face with God. “Because

I will do this unto thee,  prepare to meet thy God” (v. 12). The

kind or occasion of the meeting with God is not explained. It is,

therefore, to be taken to include all modes and occasions, whether

in life, at death, or AT THE FINAL JUDGMENT. And the

thought of it is one of terror to the ungodly, under whatever

circumstances. They can face His judgments; God is not in them,

unless in figurative sense. They can face his prophets; God is not

in them, unless in a spiritual sense. But TO FACE GOD

LITERALLY  was, even to a pious Jew, like facing death

(Exodus 33:20; Judges 13:22, Hebrews 12:29); whilst to the

impious it must have been the embodiment of all terror. It is from

the “PRESENCE OF THE LORD” that the wicked in the

 judgment call upon the hills to hide them (Revelation 6:16;

Luke 23:30; Hosea 10:8).  That, of all things in the universe, is an

ordeal they cannot face.


Ø      It is left undefined that it may seem the more terrible. We have

here the eloquence of silence. The terror of the threat is enhanced by

its vagueness. Familiarity breeds contempt. If a thing, however bad,

is exactly defined, we can familiarize ourselves with the thought of it in

time, and brace our courage up to meet it. “It doth not yet appear

what we shall be” (I John 3:2), but our idea of it, meantime, has an

element of enlargement in its very indefiniteness. God says vaguely

“Thus,” and stops short, that imagination may fill up the blank. His

silence is charged with deeper meaning than any words could carry.




Ø      Look for a meeting with God. It is INEVITABLE.  It is at hand.

The fact must be faced. No good, but harm, can come out of the attempt

to escape or blink it (II Corinthians 5:10; Psalm 139:7-12).


Ø      Prepare for it. This is A WORD OF HOPE!   Meeting with God is

inevitable; but it need not necessarily be injurious. Preparation for it is

possible, being enjoined, and would avail something if it were made.

God never in this life bids people or individuals prepare to




Ø      Do this because of impending judgments. “Because I will do this

unto thee.” We might suppose that if God was going to destroy, the

preparation to meet Him would be too late. But that does not follow.

When Nineveh was wicked God expressed His purpose to destroy it,

but when it became penitent He spared it.  (the book of Jonah)

Hezekiah, prayerless in the particular matter, was bidden prepare to

die; but Hezekiah, praying for more life, was spared fifteen years

(Isaiah 38:1, 5). What God will do to us, so far as it comes

within our cognizance, is conditioned by what we will do to Him.

Until the judgment has actually fallen, the threat of it is A MESSAGE

OF MERCY!   A sentence of destruction itself is a call to repentance,

and so has woven into it a thread of hope. “Because I will do this

 unto thee, PREPARE”.  (v.12)



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