Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
I saw the Lord standing upon the altar: and he said, Smite the lintel of the door, that the posts may shake: and cut them in the head, all of them; and I will slay the last of them with the sword: he that fleeth of them shall not flee away, and he that escapeth of them shall not be delivered.
Am 9:1-15. Fifth and Last Vision.
None can escape the coming judgment in any hiding-place: for God is omnipresent and irresistible (Am 9:1-6). As a kingdom, Israel shall perish as if it never was in covenant with Him: but as individuals the house of Jacob shall not utterly perish, nay, not one of the least of the righteous shall fall, but only all the sinners (Am 9:7-10). Restoration of the Jews finally to their own land after the re-establishment of the fallen tabernacle of David; consequent conversion of all the heathen (Am 9:11-15).
1. Lord … upon the altar—namely, in the idolatrous temple at Beth-el; the calves which were spoken of in Am 8:14. Hither they would flee for protection from the Assyrians, and would perish in the ruins, with the vain object of their trust [Henderson]. Jehovah stands here to direct the destruction of it, them, and the idolatrous nation. He demands many victims on the altar, but they are to be human victims. Calvin and Fairbairn, and others, make it in the temple at Jerusalem. Judgment was to descend both on Israel and Judah. As the services of both alike ought to have been offered on the Jerusalem temple-altar, it is there that Jehovah ideally stands, as if the whole people were assembled there, their abominations lying unpardoned there, and crying for vengeance, though in fact committed elsewhere (compare Eze 8:1-18). This view harmonizes with the similarity of the vision in Amos to that in Isa 6:1-13, at Jerusalem. Also with the end of this chapter (Am 9:11-15), which applies both to Judah and Israel: "the tabernacle of David," namely, at Jerusalem. His attitude, "standing," implies fixity of purpose.
lintel—rather, the sphere-like capital of the column [Maurer].
posts—rather, "thresholds," as in Isa 6:4, Margin. The temple is to be smitten below as well as above, to ensure utter destruction.
cut them in the head—namely, with the broken fragments of the capitals and columns (compare Ps 68:21; Hab 3:13).
slay the last of them—their posterity [Henderson]. The survivors [Maurer]. Jehovah's directions are addressed to His angels, ministers of judgment (compare Eze 9:1-11).
he that fleeth … shall not flee away—He who fancies himself safe and out of reach of the enemy shall be taken (Am 2:14).
Though they dig into hell, thence shall mine hand take them; though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down:
2. Though they dig into hell—though they hide ever so deeply in the earth (Ps 139:8).
though they climb up to heaven—though they ascend the greatest heights (Job 20:6, 7; Jer 51:53; Ob 4).
And though they hide themselves in the top of Carmel, I will search and take them out thence; and though they be hid from my sight in the bottom of the sea, thence will I command the serpent, and he shall bite them:
3. Carmel—where the forests, and, on the west side, the caves, furnished hiding-places (Am 1:2; Jud 6:2; 1Sa 13:6).
the sea—the Mediterranean, which flows at the foot of Mount Carmel; forming a strong antithesis to it.
command the serpent—the sea-serpent, a term used for any great water monster (Isa 27:1). The symbol of cruel and oppressive kings (Ps 74:13, 14).
And though they go into captivity before their enemies, thence will I command the sword, and it shall slay them: and I will set mine eyes upon them for evil, and not for good.
4. though they go into captivity—hoping to save their lives by voluntarily surrendering to the foe.
And the Lord GOD of hosts is he that toucheth the land, and it shall melt, and all that dwell therein shall mourn: and it shall rise up wholly like a flood; and shall be drowned, as by the flood of Egypt.
5. As Amos had threatened that nowhere should the Israelites be safe from the divine judgments, he here shows God's omnipotent ability to execute His threats. So in the case of the threat in Am 8:8, God is here stated to be the first cause of the mourning of "all that dwell" in the land, and of its rising "like a flood, and of its being "drowned, as by the flood of Egypt."
It is he that buildeth his stories in the heaven, and hath founded his troop in the earth; he that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The LORD is his name.
6. stories—literally, "ascents," that is, upper chambers, to which the ascent is by steps [Maurer]; evidently referring to the words in Ps 104:3, 13. Grotius explains it, God's royal throne, expressed in language drawn from Solomon's throne, to which the ascent was by steps (compare 1Ki 10:18, 19).
founded his troop—namely, all animate creatures, which are God's troop, or host (Ge 2:1), doing His will (Ps 103:20, 21; Joe 2:11). Maurer translates, "His vault," that is, the vaulted sky, which seems to rest on the earth supported by the horizon.
Are ye not as children of the Ethiopians unto me, O children of Israel? saith the LORD. Have not I brought up Israel out of the land of Egypt? and the Philistines from Caphtor, and the Syrians from Kir?
7. unto me—however great ye seem to yourselves. Do not rely on past privileges, and on My having delivered you from Egypt, as if therefore I never would remove you from Canaan. I make no more account of you than of "the Ethiopian" (compare Jer 13:23). "Have not I (who) brought you out of Egypt," done as much for other peoples? For instance, did I not bring "the Philistines (see on Isa 14:29, &c.) from Caphtor (compare De 2:23; see on Jer 47:4), where they had been bond-servants, and the Syrians from Kir?" It is appropriate, that as the Syrians migrated into Syria from Kir (compare Note, see on Isa 22:6), so they should be carried back captive into the same land (see on Am 1:15; 2Ki 16:9), just as elsewhere Israel is threatened with a return to Egypt whence they had been delivered. The "Ethiopians," Hebrew, "Cushites," were originally akin to the race that founded Babylon: the cuneiform inscriptions in this confirming independently the Scripture statement (Ge 10:6, 8, 10).
Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth; saving that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, saith the LORD.
8. eyes … upon the sinful kingdom—that is, I am watching all its sinful course in order to punish it (compare Am 9:4; Ps 34:15, 16).
not utterly destroy the house of Jacob—Though as a "kingdom" the nation is now utterly to perish, a remnant is to be spared for "Jacob," their forefather's sake (compare Jer 30:11); to fulfil the covenant whereby "the seed of Israel" is hereafter to be "a nation for ever" (Jer 31:36).
For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth.
9. sift—I will cause the Israelites to be tossed about through all nations as corn is shaken about in a sieve, in such a way, however, that while the chaff and dust (the wicked) fall through (perish), all the solid grains (the godly elect) remain (are preserved), (Ro 11:26; compare Note, see on Jer 3:14). So spiritual Israel's final safety is ensured (Lu 22:32; Joh 10:28; 6:39).
All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, which say, The evil shall not overtake nor prevent us.
10. All the sinners—answering to the chaff in the image in Am 9:9, which falls on the earth, in opposition "to the grain" that does not "fall."
overtake … us—"come on us from behind" [Maurer].
In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old:
11. In that day—quoted by James (Ac 15:16, 17), "After this," that is, in the dispensation of Messiah (Ge 49:10; Ho 3:4, 5; Joe 2:28; 3:1).
tabernacle of David—not "the house of David," which is used of his affairs when prospering (2Sa 3:1), but the tent or booth, expressing the low condition to which his kingdom and family had fallen in Amos' time, and subsequently at the Babylonian captivity before the restoration; and secondarily, in the last days preceding Israel's restoration under Messiah, the antitype to David (Ps 102:13, 14; Jer 30:9; Eze 34:24; 37:24; see on Isa 12:1). The type is taken from architecture (Eph 2:20). The restoration under Zerubbabel can only be a partial, temporary fulfilment; for it did not include Israel, which nation is the main subject of Amos' prophecies, but only Judah; also Zerubbabel's kingdom was not independent and settled; also all the prophets end their prophecies with Messiah, whose advent is the cure of all previous disorders. "Tabernacle" is appropriate to Him, as His human nature is the tabernacle which He assumed in becoming Immanuel, "God with us" (Joh 1:14). "Dwelt," literally, tabernacled "among us" (compare Re 21:3). Some understand "the tabernacle of David" as that which David pitched for the ark in Zion, after bringing it from Obed-edom's house. It remained there all his reign for thirty years, till the temple of Solomon was built, whereas the "tabernacle of the congregation" remained at Gibeon (2Ch 1:3), where the priests ministered in sacrifices (1Ch 16:39). Song and praise was the service of David's attendants before the ark (Asaph, &c.): a type of the gospel separation between the sacrificial service (Messiah's priesthood now in heaven) and the access of believers on earth to the presence of God, apart from the former (compare 2Sa 6:12-17; 1Ch 16:37-39; 2Ch 1:3).
breaches thereof—literally, "of them," that is, of the whole nation, Israel as well as Judah.
as in … days of old—as it was formerly in the days of David and Solomon, when the kingdom was in its full extent and undivided.
That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the LORD that doeth this.
12. That they may possess … remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen—"Edom," the bitter foe, though the brother, of Israel; therefore to be punished (Am 1:11, 12), Israel shall be lord of the "remnant" of Edom left after the punishment of the latter. James quotes it, "That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles," &c. For "all the heathen" nations stand on the same footing as Edom: Edom is the representative of them all. The residue or remnant in both cases expresses those left after great antecedent calamities (Ro 9:27; Zec 14:16). Here the conversion of "all nations" (of which the earnest was given in James's time) is represented as only to be realized on the re-establishment of the theocracy under Messiah, the Heir of the throne of David (Am 9:11). The possession of the heathen nations by Israel is to be spiritual, the latter being the ministers to the former for their conversion to Messiah, King of the Jews; just as the first conversions of pagans were through the ministry of the apostles, who were Jews. Compare Isa 54:3, "thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles" (compare Isa 49:8; Ro 4:13). A remnant of Edom became Jews under John Hyrcanus, and the rest amalgamated with the Arabians, who became Christians subsequently.
which are called by my name—that is, who belong to Me, whom I claim as Mine (Ps 2:8); in the purposes of electing grace, God terms them already called by His name. Compare the title, "the children," applied by anticipation, Heb 2:14. Hence as an act of sovereign grace, fulfilling His promise, it is spoken of God. Proclaim His title as sovereign, "the Lord that doeth this" ("all these things," Ac 15:17, namely, all these and such like acts of sovereign love).
Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt.
13. the days come—at the future restoration of the Jews to their own land.
ploughman shall overtake … reaper … treader of grapes him that soweth—fulfilling Le 26:5. Such shall be the abundance that the harvest and vintage can hardly be gathered before the time for preparing for the next crop shall come. Instead of the greater part of the year being spent in war, the whole shall be spent in sowing and reaping the fruits of earth. Compare Isa 65:21-23, as to the same period.
soweth seed—literally, "draweth it forth," namely, from the sack in order to sow it.
mountains … drop sweet wine—an appropriate image, as the vines in Palestine were trained on terraces at the sides of the hills.
And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them.
14. build the waste cities—(Isa 61:4; Eze 36:33-36).
And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD thy God.
15. plant them … no more be pulled up—(Jer 32:41).
thy God—Israel's; this is the ground of their restoration, God's original choice of them as His.