Matthew Poole's 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.The certainty of Israel’s desolation, Amos 9:1-10. The restoring of the tabernacle of David, and of the captivity of Israel.
I saw: as before, Amos 7:1,4,7 8:1; so here the prophet hath a fifth vision.
The Lord; the great, glorious, just, and holy God, in some visible tokens of his majesty.
Standing; either ready to execute sentence, or ready to depart, Ezekiel 9:3 10:1,4; indeed here he will do both, execute his own sentence, and depart from this people.
Upon the altar of burnt-offering before the temple at Jerusalem: here the scene is laid, this altar and temple Israel had forsaken, and set up others against it; and here God in his jealousy appears prepared to take vengeance: possibly it may intimate his future departure from Judah too. There Ezekiel, Ezekiel 9:2, saw the slaughtermen stand.
He said, commanded,
Smite the lintel of the door, or the chapiter, knop, ornament that was upon the lintel of the door, which is supposed to be of the gate of the temple, or possibly the door of the gate that led into the priests’ courts; and though the party that smites be not named, it is likely it was an angel; or possibly the prophet seemed to do it, for this is to do in vision.
That the posts may shake; which were the strength and beauty of the gate.
And cut, wound deep,
them, the people which were visionally represented as standing in the court of the temple,
in the head, that it may more fully signify the destroying of the chief of the heads of this sinful people.
All; spare not one of these.
I will slay the last; God will slay by the enemies’ sword the meanest of them, or the last, i.e. the posterity of them.
He that fleeth of them shall not flee away, or get out of danger.
He that escapeth, for the present, out of battle or besieged city,
shall not be delivered; shall yet at last fall into the enemies’ hand, or by his sword.
Though they dig into hell, thence shall mine hand take them; though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down:When David would describe the omnipresence of God, Psalm 139:7-12, he doth it most elegantly in almost the same manner as our inspired herdman here doth. Wherever these seek to hide themselves from the pursuing vengeance, they shall be found; he is with them, from whom they hide.
Though they dig into hell; the deepest recesses, the heart and centre of the earth or the grave; or literally, for so we may lay the supposition, were it possible to be done, to hide in the centre of the earth, or the depth of hell.
Thence shall mine hand take them; for hell is naked to God, and the grave did not hide some of these sinners; when dead and buried, the rage of famine, or of the enemy, might dig some out of their graves.
Though they climb up to heaven; could they fly up to heaven, they would be out of the reach of men;
thence will I bring them down; but there they would meet an offended God, and he would east them down.
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:Though they hide themselves in the top of Carmel; one high woody mountain, shelter and hiding-place for wild beasts, by a figure put for all the rest; if they think to be safe where wild beasts find a refuge, they are deceived,
I will search and take them out thence; I will, saith God, hunt them out, and take them.
Though they be hid from my sight in the bottom of the sea: this is an irony like brutish atheists, they think to hide themselves in the bottom of the sea.
Thence will I command the serpent, crocodile or shark some sea monster, and he shall bite them; devour them. Miserable Israel, to whom nor sea, nor mountains, nor heaven, nor hell will afford a hiding-place!
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.Though they go into captivity; those excluded from safety every where else may perhaps hope that yet the enemy may spare. Captives are the slaves, the possession of their conquering enemies; these make profit of them by selling them to others, or employing them in labour and service.
Before their enemies: this seems to intimate some voluntariness in these people going before the conqueror, whom they hope hereby to mollify and sweeten, that he may use them well; yet this hope shall fail them too.
Thence will I command the sword, and it shall slay them: the enemy should, either out of cruel humour and hatred against them, or on any slight occasion and disgust, slay them as if they had commission from me so to do: neither propriety in them, nor service by them, nor profit in the sale of these poor and miserable captives, should be safety to them, they should be accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
I will set mine eyes upon them; I will perpetually watch over them, and then be sure no opportunity will be let slip.
For evil, to afflict and punish them,
and not for good, for their benefit. Thus was the course of God’s providence against them from the days Amos aimeth at unto this very day, and God hitherto hath, and still doth, make good his threat against this idolatrous, cruel, oppressing people.
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.The prophet having foretold such sad, universal desolations, miseries beyond what this secure people could think possible, and such as the atheists among them censured, and derided as impossibilities, as Amos 9:10; now in this and the following verses to the 10th the prophet confirms his word, and the certainty of these future judgments.
The Lord; Adonai, the sovereign Lord.
God; Jehovah, who speaks and doth, and need no more than will to work and accomplish; so he made, sustaineth, and disposeth of all.
Of hosts; all the creatures are his army, and do what he commands them to do against his enemies.
Is he that toucheth: a light touch of his hand, he needs not as man to take great pains to break and dissolve hard metals, a touch of his finger will do this.
The land; either the inhabitants, or rather the land itself in which they dwelt, the land of Canaan; or more likely the whole earth, how firm and hard soever it seem to be.
And it shall melt, as snow before the sun in its hottest influences, or as wax before a mighty fire. He who can do this, can do all that I have denounced against you, O Israel. The rest of the verse, see Amos 8:8.
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.It is he that buildeth his stories in the heaven; he that threatens and will execute his just severities on you is that mighty, glorious King, whose palace inconceivably surpasseth all the royal palaces of the mightiest monarchs on earth; his chambers, as Psalm 104:3, are in the heavens: he by a word of his mouth prepared and garnished those rooms of state, where is glory that ravisheth the mighty angels; how easily can he demolish and ruin your cells, and with the breath of his nostrils, by one command, blow away and scatter your little dust heaps, which you call cities, fortresses, and impregnable munitions!
And hath founded his troop in the earth; he laid the foundations of this lower world, and can as easily shake or overturn as at first he laid them. All that is below the royal pavilions of God is but as a little bundle which he can soon untie and scatter about, nor are the things tied up of such worth and value that he should lose by doing it; how much more easy is it for him to destroy (as he hath spoken) your land and cities, which are a very small thing compared with the whole world, and this as a point compared with the unmeasurable greatness of the heavens! You set a value on yourselves, and are proud, and think that God will not lose, such jewels; as if a king in his royalty should fear to lose a pin’s head, or one atom of dust that lieth on his footstool.
Calleth; the easiest way a man can take to get any thing done; nothing so easy for man to do, as it is easy for God to drown a sinful nation or world: possibly God by this may mind them what seeming impossibility he did when he called for the waters of the sea to drown the old world, and would hereby make them see that he can now do the like.
For the waters of the sea; either by wholesale in judgment to drown, or by retail by vapours in mercy to give rain.
And poureth them out, in storms and violence, or in gentler showers, to punish or refresh.
Upon the face of the earth; either a particular nation, or the whole world.
The Lord is his name; eternal, unchangeable, almighty, and just: see Amos 5:8.
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?Are ye not, who glory in your descent from Abraham, and are in truth the natural descendants of Israel, and think very highly of yourselves on this account, slighting all other nations, and presuming that God neither will nor can, because of his covenant, destroy you, whatever prophets say,
as children of the Ethiopians? not that remote nation beyond Egypt, but those of Arabia Petrea, a wild, thievish, and servile nation, such as now inhabit those parts; base, bloody, and thievish Arabs, hated and despised of all their neighbours, and so by the Israelites their neighbours accounted at that day.
Unto me; I did make them as you, they are my creatures as you; wherein soever you excel them you owe it to me, who made you both as creatures, and have distinguished you by my free mercy and rich grace, giving most to you, of which you boast, and giving less to them, for which you despise them.
Have not I brought up Israel out of the land of Egypt? and whereas you boast my kindness to you, bringing you out of Egypt, and thereupon conclude God cannot leave you whom he hath so redeemed; you argue amiss, for these things aggravate your sin, and render you less capable of hoping or obtaining mercy since you abuse such grace. Remember Amos 3:2. You think I cannot, must not now root you out of your land, because I brought you out of Egypt, as if you were the only people that ever were brought out of bondage; but Moses tells you the Philistines were captivated by the Caphtorims, who dwelt in their land; yet the Philistines were restored, and you found them in the land when you came to possess it. Their expulsion you read Deu 2:23, though I remember no particular mention of their deliverance in any history, yet this hint is enough to assure us of the matter of fact. And the Assyrians, an ancient people, inhabiting a large country, and known by several distinct names,
from Kir; conquered by some potent enemies, probably the ancient Assyrians, and sent away to Kir, a city or country of Media, yet delivered at last. Should these nations, as you do, argue themselves to be out of danger of Divine justice and severe punishments, because I had done this for them? Certainly you would not allow such argument in them, nor will I allow it in you.
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.Behold; consider things better, and argue more like men of reason.
The eyes of the Lord God; God of infinite purity and knowledge, whose nature hateth all sin, and whose office it is to punish sinners, his eyes behold all the children of men, they run to and fro, as 2 Chronicles 16:9. Are upon the sinful kingdom; every sinful kingdom, and on the kingdom of the ten tribes as notoriously the sinning kingdom, as the Hebrew.
And I will destroy it from off the face of the earth; and I will ruin any such kingdom for their sins, that it shall cease to be a kingdom on earth.
Saving that I will not utterly destroy; and so would I do with the kingdom of Israel, but that I have by covenant with their fathers engaged to be their God for ever, which promise I will keep to a remnant of their seed for ever.
The house of Jacob; the seed of Jacob, which God will not utterly extirpate, though he do extirpate other nations, Jeremiah 30:11.
Saith the Lord: this is added to confirm the gracious word concerning the remnant which shall be spared.
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.For, lo: as this confirms what the 8th verse promiseth, so it requireth a very diligent and full attention of us.
I will command, or give a charge to all nations whither these exiled persons shall come, and they shall observe the charge, it shall as surely be done as it is spoken.
I will sift the house of Israel among all nations; though Assyrians and other nations be the means and instruments, yet God’s hand is principal; whilst they would toss and scatter Israel with violence, yet God will hold the sieve, and guide their hands, and set bounds to their violence.
Like as corn is sifted in a sieve, by a skilful and careful husbandman, who designs to separate the chaff from the corn; to preserve this, to tread the other under foot.
Yet shall not the least grain; though covered under much chaff, though tumbled and tossed with the greatest violence, and without any regard to it, yet the smallest and least regarded good grain shall not be lost or destroyed with that fire which consumeth the chaff.
Fall upon the earth, i.e. perish, or be lost; so the phrase 1 Samuel 26:20 2 Samuel 14:11 1 Kings 1:52. Here is a promise of preservation as great and wonderful, and as hardly comprehended, as was the threatened punishment.
All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, which say, The evil shall not overtake nor prevent us.All the sinners of my people, the great, notorious sinners, idolaters, oppressors, perverters of law and equity, cruel and inhuman judges and others, shall die by the sword; either at home in the wars, or abroad by barbarous men that captivate them; as Amos 9:4.
Which say; in their hearts thinking or hoping, or in their words discoursing, the impossibility of what Amos did foretell.
The evil, the sad, miserable, and desolating end, shall not overtake nor prevent us; as a pursuing enemy, we will flee from it: see Amos 9:1. It is far off, we shall die first, and be safe in the grave; a kingdom in its prosperity, and well settled, as this kingdom was in Jeroboam’s time, cannot soon be brought to such confusion; we shall never see it. This savoured rank of their atheism, and these shall certainly fall and perish, and never rise.
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:This promise I nothing doubt hath a double aspect, both to the return out of captivity, and to the Messiah’s kingdom, and each part is to be considered by us: if we would duly explain this and the following verse, let us look first to the letter and historical reference, and next to the mystical and spiritual sense of the words.
In that day; a very usual phrase in Scripture, whereby a time fixed and certain, yet unknown to us, is intended in the set time which God hath prefixed.
I will raise up; lay the foundation and build up. reduce out of captivity and re-establish in their own land. The tabernacle of David; the house of David, and those that did adhere to David’s family, which are here called a tabernacle, partly for that it never did after the captivity rise to a free and independent kingdom, and partly because he would distinguish the Jews from the apostate Israelites, who did wholly forsake David’s house.
That is fallen; by a revolt of ten tribes in twelve, whereby their state is low, and as fallen to the ground.
And close up the breaches, which are in it by that long division, since Jeroboam the First’s time, which breaches shall, upon the return out of captivity, be made up by the voluntary union of the remnant of the ten tribes which shall return with the two tribes out of the Babylonish captivity.
I will raise up his ruins; disposing the minds of the kings of Persia to advance David’s line to the government of the restored captives, and continuing it in the Supreme power till Messiah’s coming; and by rebuilding Jerusalem, and the temple, and settling true religion amongst them.
And I will build it as in the days of old; much what it was before the sack of the city and temple, and the carrying the people captive. All which, as far as they are temporal concerns, do suppose and did require a sound turning to God; as did the like promises made by other prophets. And how far soever they fell short of these promises, it was through unbelief and other sins, as Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi complain in their prophecies. Now as it refers to Messiah’s kingdom, it is a prophecy of the conversion of the Gentiles, as appears Acts 15:16,17; of which no more here, because our work is to give the literal sense of the text: who would see more may consult larger commentators on this place, and on Acts 15:16,17.
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.That they; literally and historically the Jews, or they of the two tribes, and with them such of the ten tribes as did unite to them, and returned to Jerusalem.
May possess, both the lands of Edom, and some of the posterity of Edom; these as servants, the other as their propriety. The remnant, left by Nebuchadnezzar, or that fled out of his reach and lived privately where they could find a hiding-place till Israel’s return.
Of Edom; the posterity of Esau, wasted by Nebuchadnezzar, and ruined so that they never did recover to be a kingdom, but who remained of them did shelter themselves as retainers to other nations, and among these some did betake themselves to the Jews, and lived under them. Though formerly they had been desperate enemies to the Jews, Edomites, who cried, Rase, rase, Psalm 137:7, shall now assist as servants in laying the foundations, and building Jerusalem.
All the heathen, i.e. round about, as Moabites, Ammonites, &c., by usual phrase called all the heathen.
Which are called by my name: these words either must refer to heathen and Edomites proselyted, or they are by a trajection laid here, but in construction are to be joined with the foregoing words thus. That they which are called by my name may possess, & c.
Saith the Lord; this immutably confirms the promise.
That doeth this; who saith and doth, who willeth and effecteth, whose command is almighty. That this is a prophecy of setting up the kingdom of the Messiah, and bringing in the Gentiles, is very certain, but appertains to the mystic sense, not to the literal, which is our work.
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.Here is another promise made literally for assurance of abundant plenty to the returned captives, and mystically, of abundant grace poured forth in gospel days. But of the letter and history.
Behold, mark well, ye poor captived Jews,
the days come; the time will certainly come, nay, it hasteth, and whoso lives to return shall see this word performed.
The ploughman, who breaks up the ground, and prepares it for sowing,
shall overtake the reaper; shall be ready to tread on the heels of the reaper, who shall have a harvest so large, that before he can gather it all in it shall be time to plough the ground and prepare it for the seed for next year’s crop. So God will take away the reproach of famine (in Ezekiel’s phrase) from the mountains of Israel.
And the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; so great shall their vintage be, that ere the treaders of grapes can have finished their work, the seedsman shall be sowing his seed against next harvest season.
The mountains: the Jews did plant the mountains and hills of Canaan with vines, Isaiah 5:1, there were their vineyards.
Shall drop sweet wine; the vineyards shall be so fruitful, and new wine so plentiful, as if it did, like trickling streams, run down from the mountains; and all the hills shall melt; or as if whole hills were melted into such liquors. See Joel 3:18. It is a lofty strain, and very elegantly expresseth the abundance of outward blessings promised to this people here spoken of. If any will object, It appears not that ever it was so. I answer, It is certain the sins of the returned captives did in very great degrees prevent these blessings, which are here promised under a tacit condition, which they never did fulfil.
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.What is contained in this verse is an express promise of a return to captive Israel, and it is an implicit stating of the time when those former promises, Amos 9:11-13, should be fulfilled.
I will bring again: Cyrus was the person who proclaimed liberty of return to captive Israel, but God stirred up his spirit to do this, and it was God’s eminent work; he was seen in it, as Psalm 126:3,4.
The captivity of my people of Israel; of those Shalmaneser carried captive and those Nebuchadnezzar carried captive, both falling under the disposal of Cyrus by his conquest over Babylon; by which means Israel, the remnant of the ten tribes, as well as the two tribes, had leave to return.
They shall build the waste cities, of Judah and of Israel too, as well as Jerusalem, many of which we meet with in the latter histories of the Jews and their wars.
Inhabit them; so they did from the time of their return till the Roman captivity, and were not by the space of six hundred years pulled out of their habitation.
Shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; be blessed in the increase of them and enjoy it, freed from that curse, Deu 28:39.
Shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them; these, planted for delight, should be blessed too; both vineyards and gardens should be fruitful, and they that planted them should dwell in their houses safely, and eat the fruit of them.
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.I will plant, or settle them, as trees that are well rooted,
upon their land, by ancient gift, and by late restitution to it by the Lord.
They shall no more be pulled up by the violence of their enemies which promise is an implicit condition that they seek, and not forsake the Lord, and was on God’s part with admirable constancy and patience to that sinful nation performed through six hundred years, perhaps the longest time of freedom from captivity they ever knew.
Which I have given, of free gift, without their merit.
Saith the Lord thy God; God, thy God and thy Lord, will do it for his covenant’s sake, therefore surely and fully will he do it.