Amos 5:23
Take you away from me the noise of your songs; for I will not hear the melody of your viols.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) Songs.—The very sound of their tumultuous songs was a burden to Jehovah. As Christ cleansed the Temple, so would He dispel all this hypocritical and perilous confusion of ideas.

5:18-27 Woe unto those that desire the day of the Lord's judgments, that wish for times of war and confusion; as some who long for changes, hoping to rise upon the ruins of their country! but this should be so great a desolation, that nobody could gain by it. The day of the Lord will be a dark, dismal, gloomy day to all impenitent sinners. When God makes a day dark, all the world cannot make it light. Those who are not reformed by the judgments of God, will be pursued by them; if they escape one, another stands ready to seize them. A pretence of piety is double iniquity, and so it will be found. The people of Israel copied the crimes of their forefathers. The law of worshipping the Lord our God, is, Him only we must serve. Professors thrive so little, because they have little or no communion with God in their duties. They were led captive by Satan into idolatry, therefore God caused them to go into captivity among idolaters.Take thou away from Me - Literally, "from upon Me," that is, from being a burden to Me, a weight on Me. So God says by Isaiah, "your new moons and your appointed feasts My soul hateth; they are a burden upon Me; I am weary to bear them" Isaiah 1:14. Their "songs" and hymns were but a confused, tumultuous, "noise," since they had not the harmony of love.

For - (And) the melody of thy viols I will not hear - Yet the "nebel," probably a sort of harp, was almost exclusively consecrated to the service of God, and the Psalms were God's own writing. Doubtless they sounded harmoniously in their own ears; but it reached no further. Their melody, like much Church-music, was for itself, and ended in itself. : "Let Christian chanters learn hence, not to set the whole devotion of Psalmody in a good voice, subtlety of modulation and rapid intonation, etc., quavering like birds, to tickle the ears of the curious, take them off to themselves and away from prayer, lest they hear from God, 'I will not hear the melody of thy viols.' Let them learn that of the Apostle, 'I will sing with the Spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also' 1 Corinthians 14:15." Augustine, in Psalm 30:1-12; Enarr. iv. (p. 203. Oxford Translation) L.: "If the Psalm prays, pray; if it sorrows, sorrow; if it is glad, rejoice; if full of hope, hope; if of fear, fear. For whatever is therein written, is our mirror."

Augustine in Psalm 119 (n. 9. T. v. p. 470. Old Testament) L.: "How many are loud in voice, dumb in heart! How many lips are silent, but their love is loud! For the ears of God are to the heart of man. As the ears of the body are to the mouth of man, so the heart of man is to the ears of God. Many are heard with closed lips, and many who cry aloud are not heard." Dionysius: "God says, 'I will not hear," as He says, 'praise is not seemly in the mouth of a sinner' (Ecclesiaticus 15:9), and, 'to the ungodly saith God, what hast thou to do, to declare My statutes?' Psalm 50:16, and, 'he that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination' Proverbs 28:9. It is not meant hereby that the wicked ought wholly to abstain from the praise of God and from prayers, but that they should be diligent to amend, and know that through such imperfect services they cannot be saved." The prophet urges upon them the terribleness of the Day of Judgment, that they might feel and flee its terribleness, before it comes. He impresses on them the fruitlessness of their prayers, that, amending, they might so pray, that God would hear them.

23. Take … away from me—literally, "Take away, from upon Me"; the idea being that of a burden pressing upon the bearer. So Isa 1:14, "They are a trouble unto Me (literally, 'a burden upon Me'): I am weary to bear them."

the noise of thy songs—The hymns and instrumental music on sacred occasions are to Me nothing but a disagreeable noise.

I will not hear—Isaiah substitutes "prayers" (Isa 1:15) for the "songs" and "melody" here; but, like Amos, closes with "I will not hear."

The noise of thy songs; by way of contempt and loathing, God calls their songs noise; how harmonious, delightful, and ravishing soever they might be to their ears, they were not pleasing unto God.

Songs, used in their sacrifices, and their solemn feasts; herein they imitated temple-worship, but all was unpleasing to the Lord.

I will not hear: this is not to be taken absolutely, for God heard the noise; but it is taken in a qualified sense, he did not hear with delight and acceptance.

The melody, the pleasing harmony, the sweet concert,

of thy viols; this one kind of musical instrument put for all the rest: in a word, your hypocrisy, idolatry, and injustice spoil all your services, and make God weary of you and them. Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs,.... The ten tribes, very probably, imitated the, temple music at Jerusalem, both vocal and instrumental, and had their songs and hymns of praise, which they sung to certain tunes; but the music of these is called a noise, being very disagreeable to the Lord, as coming from such carnal and wicked persons; and therefore he desires it might cease, be took away, and he be no more troubled with it:

for I will not hear the melody of thy viols: which may be put for all instruments of music used by them, as violins, harps, psalteries, &c. the sound of which, how melodious soever, the, Lord would turn a deaf ear unto, and not regard.

Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
23. The songs and music accompanying the worship (cf. Amos 8:10; Isaiah 30:29 a) are rejected by Jehovah likewise. Of what nature these were in pre-exilic times, we do not precisely know: the descriptions in the Chronicles reflect the usage of a much later age, when the Temple music was more highly organized. The distinctly liturgical Psalms are also all probably post-exilic.

from me] lit. from upon me: the praises of sinful Israel are represented as a burden to Jehovah, from which He would gladly be freed. Cf. Isaiah 1:14 (of various sacred seasons), “They are a cumbrance upon me.”

viols] most probably harps, but possibly lutes. See the Additional Note, p. 234.

Additional Note on Chap. Amos 5:23 (nçbhel)

The Hebrew word nçbhel is rendered viol in A.V., R.V., of Amos 5:23; Amos 6:5, Isaiah 14:11, and in A.V. of Isaiah 5:12 (R.V. lute), elsewhere in both versions psaltery (2 Samuel 6:5; 1 Kings 10:12, &c.); in the P.B.V. of the Psalms, lute (Psalm 33:2; Psalm 57:9 (= Psalm 108:3), Psalm 81:2, Psalm 92:4, Psalm 144:9, Psalm 150:3)[225], once (Psalm 71:20) vaguely music. Although there is no excuse for the same Heb. word being thus rendered differently in one and the same version, it is true that the exact instrument meant is uncertain. The LXX. usually represent nçbhel by νάβλα, or (Psalms generally, Isaiah 5:12, Nehemiah 12:27) ψαλτήριον, here and Amos 6:5 by the general term ὄργανα. The νάβλα was known to the Greeks as a Sidonian instrument (Athen. iv. p. 175); and we learn from Ovid (Ars Am. 3. 327) that it was played duplici palma. It is often in the O.T. coupled with the kinnôr; according to Josephus (Ant. 8. 3. 8) the difference between the κινύρα (= kinnôr) and the νάβλα was that the former had ten strings and was played with the plectrum, the latter had twelve notes, and was played with the hand. These are substantially all the data which we possess for determining what instrument the nçbhel was. Kinnôr in A.V., R.V., is always represented by harp: and if this rendering be correct, nçbhel might well be the lyre. There is, however, force in the remark[226] that the kinnôr is mentioned much more frequently than the nçbhel, and seems to have been in more common use; the nçbhel was used at the feasts of the wealthy (Amos 6:5; Isaiah 5:12; Isaiah 14:11), or in religious ceremonies; it was therefore probably a more elaborate and expensive instrument. This consideration would point to kinnôr being the lyre, and nçbhel the harp. The large and heavy stationary harp of modern times must not, however, be thought of: the nçbhel could be played while the performer was walking (1 Samuel 10:5; 2 Samuel 6:5); and the ancients had small portable harps, of triangular shape (called accordingly by the Greeks τρίγωνα), which could be so used[227]. The word nçbhel, however, also means in Hebrew a wine-skin (1 Samuel 1:24), and an earthen jar (Isaiah 30:14); hence if the name of the musical instrument be etymologically the same word, it would seem rather to have denoted one possessing a bulging body or resonance-box: so that, after all, it is possible that some kind of lute or guitar may be the instrument mentioned[228].

[225] All these names of instruments occur frequently in old English writers, though they are now practically obsolete. The viol (Norm. viele, Prov. viula, Span, vihuela, viola, Dan. fiddel, A.-S. fidele,—from Low Lat. vitula, vidula), was a bowed instrument, in use from the 15th to the 18th centuries, an early form of the modern violin. The lute (Fr. luth, Ital. liuto, Port. alaude, from the Arab. ’al‘ûd, with the a of the article elided, ‘the wood,’ applied, κατʼ ἐξοχήν, to a particular instrument of wood, Lane, Arab. Lex., p. 2190), resembled a guitar, having a long neck with a bulging body, or resonance-box. It was played with a plectrum: among the Arabs it has been for long a popular instrument: see representations in Lane, Mod. Egyptians, chap. 18 (ed. 5, 2:67, 68), or Stainer, Music of the Bible, Figs. 18, 21. The psaltery may be described generally as a small lyre (see further D.B.1, and Grove’s Dict. of Music, s.v. Psaltery)

[226] Riehm, Handwörterbuch des Bibl. Alt. p. 1030 (ed. 2, p. 1044); Nowack, Hebr. Arch. i. 274.

[227] See representations of such portable harps in Stainer, Music of the Bible, Figs. 1–8: also (from Assyria) Engel, Music of the most Ancient Nations, pp. 29–31, and frontispiece; DB2 s.v. Harp: Rawlinson, Anc. Monarchies, Bk. ii. ch. vii. (ed. 4) p. 529 f., 542 (a procession of musicians—the same as Engel’s frontispiece): and from Egypt, Engel, p. 181 ff. (trigons, p. 195); Wilkinson-Birch, i. 465,469–470, 474 (trigons: larger harps resting on the ground, pp. 436–442, 462, 464).

[228] For representations of ancient guitars, see Rawlinson, l.c. p. 534; Wilkinson-Birch, pp. 481–483; Stainer, p. 28; Engel, pp. 204–208.

For various forms of lyre see Stainer, Figs. 9–17: Engel, pp. 38–40, 196–8; Rawlinson, l.c. pp. 531–533, 540; Wilkinson-Birch, pp. 476–478, and Plate XII., No. 16, opposite p. 480 (an interesting picture, from a tomb at Beni-hassan, representing the arrival of some Semites in Egypt): and on Jewish coins, Madden, Coins of the Jews, pp. 205, 235, 236, 241, 243 (with 3, 5, or 6 strings); Nowack, p. 274; Stainer, p. 62.

An ancient Assyrian portable harp (from Engel’s Music of the most Ancient Nations, 1870, p. 29).

The nçbhel is mentioned as an instrument used for secular music in Amos 6:5, Isaiah 5:12; Isaiah 14:11, perhaps also 1 Kings 10:12; and in connexion with religious ceremonies, 1 Samuel 10:5 (as maintaining, with other instruments, the excitement of a troop of ‘prophets’), 2 Samuel 6:5, Amos 5:23; and often in the later parts of the O.T., as in the Psalms quoted above, and in the Chronicles, viz. 1 Chronicles 13:8; 1 Chronicles 15:16; 1 Chronicles 15:20; 1 Chronicles 15:28; 1 Chronicles 16:5; 1 Chronicles 25:1; 1 Chronicles 25:6, 2 Chronicles 5:12; 2 Chronicles 9:11; 2 Chronicles 20:28; 2 Chronicles 29:25, Nehemiah 12:27, generally in conjunction with the kinnôr.Verse 23. - The noise of thy songs. Their psalms and hymns of praise were mere noise in God's ear, and wearied him (Isaiah 1:14; Isaiah 24:8; Ezekiel 26:13). Viols (Amos 6:5); ὀργάνων (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 1 Chronicles 16:42; 1 Chronicles 23:5; and 25.). In order that Judah may discern in this unparalleled calamity a judgment of God, and the warning voice of God calling to repentance, the prophet first of all summons the wine-bibbers to sober themselves, and observe the visitation of God. Joel 1:5. "Awake, ye drunken ones, and weep! and howl, all ye drinkers of wine! at the new wine; for it is cut off from your mouth. Joel 1:6. For a people has come up over my land, a strong one, and innumerable: its teeth are lion's teeth, and it has the bite of a lioness. Joel 1:7. It has made my vine a wilderness, and my fig-tree into sticks. Peeling, it has peeled it off, and cast it away: its shoots have grown white." הקיץ to awake out of the reeling of intoxication, as in Proverbs 23:35. They are to howl for the new wine, the fresh sweet juice of the grape, because with the destruction of the vines it is taken away and destroyed from their mouth. Joel 1:6 and Joel 1:7 announce through whom. In the expression gōi ‛âlâh (a people has come up) the locusts are represented as a warlike people, because they devastate the land like a hostile army. Gōi furnishes no support to the allegorical view. In Proverbs 30:25-26, not only are the ants described as a people (‛âm), but the locusts also; although it is said of them that they have no king. And ‛âm is synonymous with gōi, which has indeed very frequently the idea of that which is hostile, and even here is used in this sense; though it by no means signifies a heathen nation, but occurs in Zephaniah 2:9 by the side of ‛âm, as an epithet applied to the people of Jehovah (i.e., Israel: see also Genesis 12:2). The weapons of this army consist in its teeth, its "bite," which grinds in pieces as effectually as the teeth of the lion or the bite of the lioness (מתלּעות; see at Job 29:17). The suffix attached to ארצי does not refer to Jehovah, but to the prophet, who speaks in the name of the people, so that it is the land of the people of God. And this also applies to the suffixes in גּפני and תּאנתי in Joel 1:7. In the description of the devastation caused by the army of locusts, the vine and fig-tree are mentioned as the noblest productions of the land, which the Lord has given to His people for their inheritance (see at Hosea 2:14). לקצפה, εἰς κλασμόν, literally, for crushing. The suffix in chăsâphâh refers, no doubt, simply to the vine as the principal object, the fig-tree being mentioned casually in connection with it. Châsaph, to strip, might be understood as referring simply to the leaves of the vine (cf. Psalm 29:9); but what follows shows that the gnawing or eating away of the bark is also included. Hishlı̄kh, to throw away not merely what is uneatable, "that which is not green and contains no sap" (Hitzig), but the vine itself, which the locusts have broken when eating off its leaves and bark. The branches of the vine have become white through the eating off of the bark (sârı̄gı̄m, Genesis 40:10).

(Note: H. Ludolf, in his Histor. Aethiop. i. c. 13, 16, speaking of the locusts, says: "Neither herbs, nor shrubs, nor trees remain unhurt. Whatever is either grassy or covered with leaves, is injured, as if it had been burnt with fire. Even the bark of trees is nibbled with their teeth, so that the injury is not confined to one year alone.")

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