Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
ELEGY OVER THE
DECLARES THAT THE
TERRIBLE TO THE
1. lamentation--an elegy for the destruction coming on you. Compare
"take up," namely, as a mournful burden
(Eze 19:1; 27:2).
2. virgin of Israel--the Israelite state heretofore unsubdued by
Jer 18:13; 31:4, 21;
may be interpreted, Thou who wast once the "virgin daughter of Zion."
Rather, "virgin" as applied to a state implies its beauty, and the
delights on which it prides itself, its luxuries, power, and wealth
no more rise--in the existing order of things: in the Messianic
dispensation it is to rise again, according to many prophecies. Compare
2Ki 6:23; 24:7,
for the restricted sense of "no more."
forsaken upon her land--or, "prostrated upon," &c. (compare
Eze 29:5; 32:4)
3. went out by a thousand--that is, "the city from which there used
to go out a thousand" equipped for war. "City" is put for "the
inhabitants of the city," as in
shall leave . . . hundred--shall have only a hundred
left, the rest being destroyed by sword and pestilence
4. Seek ye me, and ye shall live--literally, "Seek
. . . Me, and live." The second imperative expresses
the certainty of "life" (escape from judgment) resulting from
obedience to the precept in the first imperative. If they perish, it is
their own fault; God would forgive, if they would repent
(Isa 55:3, 6).
5. seek not Beth-el--that is, the calves at Beth-el.
Beer-sheba--in Judah on the southern frontier towards Edom. Once
"the well of the oath" by Jehovah, ratifying Abraham's covenant with
Abimelech, and the scene of his calling on "the Lord, the everlasting
(Ge 21:31, 33),
now a stronghold of idolatry
Gilgal shall surely go into captivity--a play on similar sounds in the
Hebrew, Gilgal, galoh, yigleh: "Gilgal (the place of rolling)
shall rolling be rolled away."
Beth-el shall come to naught--Beth-el (that is, the "house of God"),
called because of its vain idols Beth-aven (that is, "the house of
vanity," or "naught,"
Ho 4:15; 10:5, 8),
shall indeed "come to naught."
6. break out like fire--bursting through everything in His way. God
is "a consuming fire"
the house of Joseph--the kingdom of Israel, of which the tribe of
Ephraim, Joseph's son, was the chief tribe (compare
none to quench it in Beth-el--that is, none in Beth-el to quench it;
none of the Beth-el idols on which Israel so depended, able to remove
the divine judgments.
7. turn judgment to wormwood--that is, pervert it to most bitter wrong.
As justice is sweet, so injustice is bitter to the injured. "Wormwood"
is from a Hebrew root, to "execrate," on account of its noxious and
leave on righteousness in . . .
earth--MAURER translates, "cast righteousness to the ground," as in
8. the seven stars--literally, the heap or cluster of seven larger stars and others smaller
(Job 9:9; 38:31).
The former whole passage seems to have been in Amos' mind. He names the
stars well known to shepherds (to which class Amos belonged), Orion as
the precursor of the tempests which are here threatened, and the
Pleiades as ushering in spring.
shadow of death--Hebraism for the densest darkness.
calleth for the waters of the sea--both to send deluges in
judgment, and the ordinary rain in mercy
9. strengtheneth the spoiled--literally, "spoil" or
"devastation": hence the "person spoiled." WINER,
MAURER, and the best modern critics translate,
"maketh devastation (or destruction) suddenly to
arise," literally, "maketh it to gleam forth like the dawn."
Ancient versions support English Version. The Hebrew is
elsewhere used, to make, to shine, to make glad: and as
English Version here
the spoiled shall come--"devastation," or "destruction shall come
English Version expresses that, strong as Israel
fancies herself after the successes of Jeroboam II
even the weakest can be made by God to prevail against the strong.
10. him that rebuketh in the gate--the judge who condemns their
iniquity in the place of judgment
abhor him that speaketh uprightly--the prophet telling them the
unwelcome truth: answering in the parallelism to the judge, "that
rebuketh in the gate" (compare
Pr 9:8; 12:1;
11. burdens of wheat--burdensome taxes levied in kind from the
wheat of the needy, to pamper the lusts of the great
wheat advanced in time of scarcity, and exacted again at a burdensome
built houses . . . but not dwell in them . . . vineyards, . . . but
not drink wine of them--according to the original prophecy of Moses
(De 28:30, 38, 39).
The converse shall be true in restored Israel
Isa 65:21, 22).
12. they afflict . . . they take--rather, "(ye) who afflict . . .
bribe--literally, a price with which one who has an unjust cause
ransoms himself from your sentence
turn aside the poor in the gate--refuse them their right
in the place of justice
13. the prudent--the spiritually wise.
shall keep silence--not mere silence of tongue, but the prudent
shall keep himself quiet from taking part in any public or private
affairs which he can avoid: as it is "an evil time," and one in which
all law is set at naught.
refers to this. Instead of impatiently agitating against irremediable
evils, the godly wise will not cast pearls before swine, who would
trample these, and rend the offerers
but will patiently wait for God's time of deliverance in silent
14. and so--on condition of your "seeking good."
shall be with you, as ye have spoken--as ye have boasted; namely, that
God is with you, and that you are His people
15. Hate . . . evil . . . love . . . good--
(Isa 1:16, 17;
judgment in the gate--justice in the place where causes
it may be that the Lord . . . will be gracious--so,
Not that men are to come to God with an uncertainty whether or
no He will be gracious: the expression merely implies the difficulty in
the way, because of the want of true repentance on man's part, so as to
stimulate the zealous earnestness of believers in seeking God (compare
the remnant of Joseph--(see
Israel (represented by "Ephraim," the leading tribe, and descendant of
Joseph) was, as compared to what it once was, now but a remnant, Hazael
of Syria having smitten all the coasts from Jordan eastward, Gilead and
Bashan, Gad, Reuben, and Manasseh
(2Ki 10:32, 33)
[HENDERSON]. Rather, "the remnant of Israel that
shall have been left after the wicked have been destroyed" [MAURER].
16. Therefore--resumed from
God foresees they will not obey the exhortation
(Am 5:14, 15),
but will persevere in the unrighteousness stigmatized
(Am 5:7, 10, 12).
the God of hosts, the Lord--an accumulation of titles, of which His
lordship over all things is the climax, to mark that from His judgment
there is no appeal.
streets . . . highways--the broad open spaces and the
narrow streets common in the East.
call the husbandman to mourning--The citizens shall call the
inexperienced husbandmen to act the part usually performed by
professional mourners, as there will not be enough of the latter for the
universal mourning which prevails.
such as are skilful of lamentation--professional mourners hired to
lead off the lamentations for the deceased; alluded to in
17. in all vineyards . . . wailing--where usually songs of joy were
pass through thee--taking vengeance
(Ex 12:12, 23;
"Pass over" and "pass by," on the contrary, are used of God's
18. Woe unto you who do not scruple to say in irony, "We desire that
the day of the Lord would come," that is, "Woe to you who treat it as if
it were a mere dream of the prophets"
to what end is it for you!--Amos taking their ironical words in
earnest: for God often takes the blasphemer at his own word, in
righteous retribution making the scoffer's jest a terrible reality
against himself. Ye have but little reason to desire the day of the
Lord; for it will be to you calamity, and not joy.
19. As if a man did flee . . . a lion, and a bear met
him--Trying to escape one calamity, he falls into another. This
perhaps implies that in
their ironical desire for the day of the Lord was as if it would be an
escape from existing calamities. The coming of the day of the Lord
would be good news to us, if true: for we have served God (that is, the
golden calves). So do hypocrites flatter themselves as to death and
judgment, as if these would be a relief from existing ills of life.
The lion may from generosity spare the prostrate, but the bear
spares none (compare
leaned . . . on the wall--on the side wall of the house, to support
himself from falling. Snakes often hid themselves in fissures in a wall.
Those not reformed by God's judgments will be pursued by them: if they
escape one, another is ready to seize them.
21. I hate, I despise--The two verbs joined without a conjunction
express God's strong abhorrence.
your feast days--yours; not Mine; I do not acknowledge them:
unlike those in Judah, yours are of human, not divine institution.
I will not smell--that is, I will take no delight in the sacrifices
in your solemn assemblies--literally, "days of restraint."
is parallel. Isaiah is fuller; Amos, more condensed. Amos condemns
Israel not only on the ground of their thinking to satisfy God by
sacrifices without obedience (the charge brought by Isaiah against the
Jews), but also because even their external ritual was a mere
corruption, and unsanctioned by God.
22. meat offerings--flour, &c. Unbloody offerings.
peace offerings--offerings for obtaining from God peace and prosperity.
Hebrew, "thank offerings."
23. Take . . . away from me--literally, "Take away, from upon Me";
the idea being that of a burden pressing upon the bearer. So
"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"
for the "songs" and "melody" here; but, like Amos, closes with "I will
run down--literally, "roll," that is, flow abundantly
Without the desire to fulfil righteousness in the offerer, the
sacrifice is hateful to God
25, 26. Have ye offered? &c.--Yes: ye have. "But (all the time with
strange inconsistency) ye have borne
(aloft in solemn pomp) the
tabernacle (that is, the portable shrine, or model tabernacle: small
enough not to be detected by Moses; compare
of your Molech" (that idol is "your" god; I am not, though ye go
through the form of presenting offerings to Me). The question, "Have
ye," is not a denial (for they did offer in the wilderness to
Jehovah sacrifices of the cattle which they took with them in their
nomad life there,
Nu 7:1-89; 9:1,
&c.), but a strong affirmation (compare
1Sa 2:27, 28;
The sin of Israel in Amos' time is the very sin of their forefathers,
mocking God with worship, while at the same time worshipping idols
It was clandestine in Moses' time, else he would have put it down; he
was aware generally of their unfaithfulness, though not knowing the
(De 31:21, 27).
Molech . . . Chiun--"Molech" means "king" answering to
Mars [BENGEL]; the Sun [JABLONSKI]; Saturn, the same as "Chiun" [MAURER]. The Septuagint translates "Chiun" into
Remphan, as Stephen quotes it
(Ac 7:42, 43).
The same god often had different names. Molech is the Ammonite
name; Chiun, the Arabic and Persian name, written also
Chevan. In an Arabic lexicon Chiun means "austere"; so
astrologers represented Saturn as a planet baleful in his
influence. Hence the Phœnicians offered human sacrifices to him,
children especially; so idolatrous Israel also. Rimmon was the
pronounced as Remvan, or "Remphan," just as Chiun was
also Chevan. Molech had the form of a king; Chevan, or Chiun, of
a star [GROTIUS]. Remphan was the Egyptian name
for Saturn: hence the Septuagint translator of Amos gave
the Egyptian name for the Hebrew, being an Egyptian. [HODIUS II, De Bibliorum Textibus Originalibus.
4.115]. The same as the Nile, of which the Egyptians made the star
Saturn the representative [HARENBERG].
BENGEL considers Remphan or Rephan
akin to Teraphim and Remphis, the name of a king of
Egypt. The Hebrews became infected with Sabeanism, the oldest form of
idolatry, the worship of the Saba or starry hosts, in their stay
in the Arabian desert, where Job notices its prevalence
in opposition, in
Jehovah declares Himself "the God of hosts."
the star of your god--R. ISAAC CARO says all the astrologers represented Saturn as
the star of Israel. Probably there was a figure of a star on the
head of the image of the idol, to represent the planet Saturn; hence
"images" correspond to "star" in the parallel clause. A star in
hieroglyphics represents God
"Images" are either a Hebraism for "image," or refer to the many images
made to represent Chiun.
27. beyond Damascus--In
it is "beyond Babylon," which includes beyond Damascus.
In Amos' time, Damascus was the object of Israel's fear because of the
Syrian wars. Babylon was not yet named as the place of their captivity.
Stephen supplies this name. Their place of exile was in fact, as he
states, "beyond Babylon," in Halah and Habor by the river Gozan,
and in the cities of the Medes
Am 1:5; 4:3; 6:14).
The road to Assyria lay through "Damascus." It is therefore specified,
that not merely shall they be carried captives to Damascus, as they had
been by Syrian kings
(2Ki 10:32, 33; 13:7),
but, beyond that, to a region whence a return was not so possible as
from Damascus. They were led captive by Satan into idolatry, therefore
God caused them to go captive among idolaters. Compare
2Ki 15:29; 16:9;
whence it appears Tiglath-pileser attacked Israel and Damascus at the
same time at Ahaz' request