Hear this word that the LORD hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying,
Verse 1-ch. 6:14. - Part II. THREE ADDRESSES PARTICULARIZING THE SINS OF ISRAEL AND ANNOUNCING IMMINENT JUDGMENT. Verses 1-15. - § 1. First address: the prophet begins by showing Israel's ingratitude for past mercies (vers. 1, 2), and his own commission to announce the coming judgment (vers. 3-8). They have drawn this upon themselves by iniquities which astonish even heathen nations; and they shall be punished by the overthrow of the kingdom and the destruction of their city (vers. 9-15). Verse 1. - The peculiar favour which God has shown the Israelites enhances the guilt of their ingratitude and increases their punishment. Hear this word. Each address (Amos 4:1; Amos 5:1) begins with this solemn call. O children of Israel. The summons is addressed to the twelve tribes, as the following words prove; but the succeeding denunciation is confined to Israel, Judah being only indirectly warned that she may expect a similar fate unless she turns in time. I brought up from the land of Egypt. This is mentioned as the crowning act of God's favour (Amos 2:10).
You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.
Verse 2. - Have I known; i.e. loved, acknowledged, chosen. So in Hosea 13:5 God says. "I knew thee in the wilderness;" and St. Paul (2 Timothy 2:19), "The Lord knoweth them that are his" (comp. Nahum 1:7). The peculiar relation in which God allowed Israel to stand to him is much dwelt upon (see Deuteronomy 4:8, 20; Deuteronomy 14:2; 2 Samuel 7:23; 1 Chronicles 17:21). Therefore I will punish you; literally, visit upon you. They must not presume upon their privileges; the retention of God's favour depended upon obedience to his Word (Exodus 19:5): the nearer they were brought to God, the greater their guilt if they fell from him. Unlike the nations denounced in the former chapters, Israel had sinned against light and knowledge and love, therefore the sentence on her must be heavier (comp. Ezekiel 9:6; Luke 12:47; 1 Peter 4:17).
Can two walk together, except they be agreed?
Verses 3-8. - Before announcing more particularly the coming judgment, Amos, by a series of little parables or comparisons, establishes his right to prophesy, and intimates the necessity laid upon him to deliver his message. He illustrates the truths that all effects have causes, and that from the cause you can infer the effect. Verse 3. - Can two walk together except they be agreed? or, except they have agreed? The "two" are God's judgment and the prophet's word. These do, not coincide by mere chance, no more than two persons pursue in company the same end without previous agreement. The prophet announces God's judgment because God has commissioned him; the prophet is of one mind with God, therefore the Lord is with him, and confirms his words. The application of the parables is seen in vers. 7, 8. The Septuagint, reading differently, has, "except they know one another."
Will a lion roar in the forest, when he hath no prey? will a young lion cry out of his den, if he have taken nothing?
Verse 4. - Will a lion roar, etc.? The lion roars when he has his pray in sight, and is about to spring upon it. So God makes the prophet utter his voice because he is ready to execute vengeance. The second clause expresses the same fact in different terms. The young lion (kephir) is not a whelp, but one able to provide for itself. He growls over the prey which he has in his lair. So Israel lies helpless as the words of God's threatenings strike upon him.
Can a bird fall in a snare upon the earth, where no gin is for him? shall one take up a snare from the earth, and have taken nothing at all?
Verse 5. - The thought here is that the punishment is deserved as well as certain. A bird is not caught unless a trap is set for it. The trap which the sinner sets for himself is sin. Can a bird fall in a snare (pach) upon the earth, where no gin (moqesh) is for him? i.e. is set for him? The "gin" is a net with a stick for a spring, which flew up when touched, carrying part of the net with it, and thus the bird was enclosed and caught (see Kitto, 'Cyclop.,' s.v. "Fowling," 2:36). The LXX. probably read yoqesh, as they translate, ἄνευ ἐξευτοῦ, "without a fowler." So the Vulgate, absque aucupe. The second clause should be, Shall a snare (pach) spring up from the ground without taking anything? The snare, or trap stick, would not rise if it had not caught something. The sin is there, and the sinners shall surely not escape. When God appoints retributive punishments for the guilty, and announces the same by his prophets, they may be expected with absolute certainty.
Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?
Verse 6. - The prophet must needs speak: shall not his denunciation arouse alarm among the people, as the trumpet suddenly heard in a city excites the terror of the inhabitants (comp. Ezekiel 33:2-5)? Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it? The "evil" is affliction, calamity, malum poenae. As states have no future, all temporal calamities in their case may rightly be regarded as the punishment of sin. Thus the ruin impending, on Israel was sent by the Lord, whose agent was the enemy now approaching. All phenomena are ascribed in the Bible to Divine operation, no second causes being allowed to interfere with this appropriation (see Job 1; 1 Samuel 18:10; 1 Kings 22:19, etc.; Isaiah 45:7). The verb "do" is often used absolutely, the context defining the result (see note on Haggai 2:4).
Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.
Verse 7. - This and the following verse apply the foregoing, parables All the evils announced come from the Lord; but he brings none of them on the people without first warning by his prophets (comp. John 13:19; John 14:29). His secret (sod); unrevealed till then. Septuagint, παιδείαν, "instruction;" so the Arabic.
The lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord GOD hath spoken, who can but prophesy?
Verse 8. - As the lion's roar forces every one to fear, so the Divine call of the prophet forces him to speak (Jeremiah 20:9; Ezekiel 2:8; 1 Corinthians 9:16, etc.). St. Gregory, moralizing, takes the lion in a spiritual sense: "After the power of his Creator has been made known to him, the strength of his adversary ought not to be concealed from him, in order that he might submit himself the more humbly to his defender, the more accurately he had learned the wickedness of his enemy, and might more ardently seek his Creator, the more terrible he found the enemy to be whom he had to avoid. For it is certain that he who less understands the danger he has escaped, loves his deliverer has; and that he who considers the strength of his adversary to be feeble, regards the solace of his defender as worthless" ('Moral.,' 32:14). Of course, this exposition does not regard the context.
Publish in the palaces at Ashdod, and in the palaces in the land of Egypt, and say, Assemble yourselves upon the mountains of Samaria, and behold the great tumults in the midst thereof, and the oppressed in the midst thereof.
Verses 9-15. - Having vindicated his own commission, Amos proclaims what God purposes to do unto Israel. He is bidden to summon the heathen Ashdod and Egypt to bear witness to the iniquities of Samaria, which should bring about the overthrow of the kingdom, the destruction of the city with its altars and palaces, and the exile of the people. Verse 9. - Ashdod (Amos 1:8). God bids the prophets (publish ye) summon the inhabitants of the palaces of Philistia (of which Ashdod is the representative) and Egypt, because they had been the chief enemies of his people, and in their sight had mighty works been wrought for Israel; thus they could appreciate her iniquity and ingratitude. Some, translating al "upon," say that the prophets are bidden publish their message upon the flat roofs of the palaces, that it may be heard far and near (comp. 2 Samuel 16:22; Matthew 10:27). Keil thinks that not all the inhabitants of the town are summoned, but only those who live in the palaces, who alone "could pronounce a correct sentence as to the mode of life commonly adopted in the palaces of Samaria." But this seems an unnecessary refinement. The Septuagint reads, Ἀναγγείλατε χώραις ἐν Ἀσουρίοις, "Proclaim ye to the regions among the Assryians," doubtless by some mistake of copyists. Assemble yourselves upon the mountains of Samaria. The city of Samaria was built on a hill which stands alone in the valley or basin, but it is surrounded by higher mountains, from whence, though at some distance, spectators could look down into its streets, and, as from the seats in an amphitheatre, behold the iniquities transacted there. Their implacable enemies, the Philistines, and those they were then courting, the Egyptians (Hebrews 7:11; Hebrews 12:1), are alike called to witness this spectacle. Tumult; the disorder, where might makes right. LXX., θαυμαστὰ πολλὰ, "many marvels," as if the sight were a surprise even to the heathen. The oppressed (ashuqim); better, the oppressions, i.e. of the weak at the hands of the powerful (comp. Amos 2:6; Amos 4:1). It was to the eternal disgrace of Israel that there were doings in her cities which the very heathen would condemn.
For they know not to do right, saith the LORD, who store up violence and robbery in their palaces.
Verse 10. - They know not how to do right. The Samaritans have lost all sense of justice, the foundation of social life (Jeremiah 4:22). LXX., Οὐκ ἔγνις α} ἔσται ἐναντίον αὐτῆς, "She knew not what things shall be before her." Store up violence; i.e. the fruits of violence and robbery (ταλαιπωρίαν, "misery," Septuagint), what they had wrung from the poor by oppression and rapine.
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; An adversary there shall be even round about the land; and he shall bring down thy strength from thee, and thy palaces shall be spoiled.
Verse 11. - An adversary. The Hebrew is forcible, the Lord speaking as though he saw the fee present: "an enemy and around the land." Ewald and Hitzig take tsar as an abstract noun, "distress;" the LXX. and Aquila, pointing it differently, read, Τύρος, but the continuation of the sentence is scarcely to be deemed a translation, κυκλόθεν ἡ γῆ σου ἐρημωθήσεται "Thy land shall be made desolate round about thee" The adversary meant is Shalmaneser, who attacked Israel more than once and besieged Samaria; or his successor, Sargon, who claims to have reduced the city and removed the inhabitants (2 Kings 17 and 2 Kings 18:9, etc.; see Introduction to Micah). Thy strength. All wherein thou trustedst shall be brought down to the ground (Obadiah 1:3). Palaces, in which were stored the fruits of injustice and rapine (ver. 10).
Thus saith the LORD; As the shepherd taketh out of the mouth of the lion two legs, or a piece of an ear; so shall the children of Israel be taken out that dwell in Samaria in the corner of a bed, and in Damascus in a couch.
Verse 12. - The prophet shows that the chastisement is inevitable, and that only the smallest remnant, the most worthless among the inhabitants, and they with much difficulty, can escape. The illustration from a common incident in a shepherd's life is very natural in Amos. Taketh; better, rescueth. So below, shall be taken out; shall be rescued. The usual explanation is that a shepherd attacks the lion which has seized one of his sheep (comp. 1 Samuel 17:34, etc.), and rescues from it the most worthless parts - "a couple of shank bones or a bit, or tip, of an ear." But as an attack on a lion would be an abnormal act of courage on the part of a shepherd, and the comparison is with things likely and usual, it is probable that the meaning is that the shepherd finds only these poor remnants after the lion has left his prey. So such a poor remnant shall be rescued from the ten tribes of Israel. That dwell in Samaria in the corner of a bed; that sit at ease, lounging in the cosiest corner of the divan, an image of indolent ease and careless security in the face of impending judgment. And in Damascus in a couch; LXX., καὶ ἐν Δαμασκῷ: Vulgate, et in Damasci grabato. The Syriac and Jewish Versions agree in considering the word "Damascus" to be a proper name. The other modern rendering takes it to mean the material which we call "damask," or something similar. Hence our Revised Version gives, "on the silken cushions of a bed;" and others, "on the damask of a couch." Dr. Pusey retains the old rendering, on the grounds that there is no evidence to prove that the manufactures for which Damascus was celebrated in after time existed at this period, its exports being then wine and white wool (Ezekiel 27:18), and that the Arabic word dimakso (which critics have cited as connected with the term "damask") has nothing to do with Damascus, and meant raw, not manufactured, "silk." He translates, "in Damascus, a couch," and explains this to mean that Damascus, which Jeroboam II had won for Israel (2 Kings 14:28), "was a canopied couch to them, in which they stayed themselves." This agrees with the ancient Jewish interpretation, which explains the clause to mean that the Israelites would some day depend for help on the Syrians represented by Damascus A third exposition, favoured by the Latin Vulgate, makes the words to mean, "on a couch of Damascus;" i.e. a Syrian couch of a costly and luxurious nature. This comes to the same as the modern rendering given, above and seems to be the easiest explanation of the expression. The difficulty depends chiefly on the punctuation of the word דמשך; or them may be some corruption in the text. What the LXX. meant by their rendering is problematical,Κατέναντι τῆς φυλῆς καὶ ἐν Δαμασκῷ, "The children of Israel who dwell in Samaria in the presence of the tribe and in Damascus."
Hear ye, and testify in the house of Jacob, saith the Lord GOD, the God of hosts,
Verse 13. - Hear ye; Septuagint, Ἱερεῖς ἀκούσατε, "Hear, O ye priests." The address is to the heathen, already summoned (ver. 9) to witness the sins of Israel, and now called to witness her punishment, In the house; better, against the house of Jacob, the tribes of Israel (ver. 1). God of hosts. God of the powers of heaven and earth, and therefore able to execute his threats. Septuagint, ὁ Παντοκράτωρ, "the Almighty."
That in the day that I shall visit the transgressions of Israel upon him I will also visit the altars of Bethel: and the horns of the altar shall be cut off, and fall to the ground.
Verse 14. - That in the day, etc. This verse is rightly joined to the preceding, as it particularizes the threats which the heathen are summoned to testify. Visit upon; equivalent to "punish" (Zephaniah 1:8). Altars of Bethal. We read of one altar being set up by Jeroboam I (1 Kings 12:29, 33), but doubtless others had been added in the course of time. The denunciation of 1 Kings 13:2, 3 is here repeated. The horns of the altar. These were certain projections at the four angles of the altar, perhaps in the form of an ox's horn, on which the blood of the sin offering was smeared, and which therefore were considered the holiest part of the altar (see Exodus 27:2; Exodus 29:12; Leviticus 16:18). The instruments of idolatry or impure worship should share the destruction of the idolaters.
And I will smite the winter house with the summer house; and the houses of ivory shall perish, and the great houses shall have an end, saith the LORD.
Verse 15. - The winter house. The luxurious habits of kings and princes had led them to have different houses for the various seasons of the year, facing north or south as the case might be (comp. Judges 3:20; Jeremiah 36:22). Septuagint, τὸν οϊκον τὸν περίπτερον, "the turreted house," which Jerome explains, Domum pinnatam, eo quod ostiola habeat per fenestras, et quasi pinnas, ad magnitudinem frigoris depellendam. Houses of ivory; panelled or inlaid with ivory, such as Ahab had (1 Kings 22:39). Solomon's throne was thus decorated (1 Kings 10:18; comp. Psalm 45:8). (For the Assyrian practice of veneering in ivory, see Rawlinson, 'Ancient Monarchies,' 1:463; comp. also Homer, 'Od.,' 4:73; Virgil, 'AEneid,' 6:895.) The great houses; better, many houses; Septuagint, ἕτεροι οϊκοι πολλοί, "many other houses." Not only palaces, but many private houses, shall be destroyed (comp. Isaiah 5:9, where the same words are used).