Amos 1:1
The words of Amos, who was among the herdsmen of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
The Prologue to the Prophecies of Amos consists of a series of denunciations of the surrounding peoples. The ground of the awful threatenings is the word of Jehovah made known to the prophet. The reason for the doom predicted on such high authority, is the resistance and cruelty that were offered by these nations to the theocratic people, and, still more, their own moral offences, condemned by universal conscience. The denunciations begin with a judgment upon Syria, the age-long enemy of Judah, sometimes confederate with Israel. Then he passes to Philistia, which had been a thorn in the side of Israel and Judah from the days of the Judges till his own. Then he directs his gaze upon Phœnician cities, the emporium of the most extensive commerce in the world, Next he passes in review other three tribes, or nations, more closely related to Israel in blood, language, and proximity, and which, nevertheless, had often manifested an undying hatred of the covenanted people. After this Judah, his own tribe, does not escape. Lastly, the prophet gathers up all his strength to denounce Israel, then at the height of prosperity and splendour.

(1) See Introduction.

Amos 1:1. The words of Amos — This inscription, and some similar ones prefixed to some of the books of the prophets, seem to have been formed by those who collected their writings together. Which he saw — Received by revelation; concerning Israel — Namely, the kingdom of the ten tribes, to which this prophecy chiefly refers; although the prophet briefly denounces God’s judgments against Judah, and also against the Syrians, Philistines, and other neighbouring countries. In the days of Uzziah king of Judah — Called Azariah in the second book of Kings, chap. 15. And in the days of Jeroboam — The great-grandson of Jehu. Two years, before the earthquake — Of which only this text, and Zechariah 14:5, make particular mention; but it is thought to be referred to, Isaiah 5:25. And Josephus, who attributes it to Uzziah’s invasion of the priest’s office, recorded 2 Chronicles 26:16, gives us some account of its effects.1:18-21 There shall be abundant Divine influences, and the gospel will spread speedily into the remotest corners of the earth. These events are predicted under significant emblems; there is a day coming, when every thing amiss shall be amended. The fountain of this plenty is in the house of God, whence the streams take rise. Christ is this Fountain; his sufferings, merit, and grace, cleanse, refresh, and make fruitful. Gospel grace, flowing from Christ, shall reach to the Gentile world, to the most remote regions, and make them abound in fruits of righteousness; and from the house of the Lord above, from his heavenly temple, flows all the good we daily taste, and hope to enjoy eternally.The words of Amos, who was among the herdmen - "Amos begins by setting forth his own nothingness, and withal the great grace of his Teacher and Instructor, the Holy Spirit, referring all to His glory." He, like David, Peter, Paul, Matthew, was one of "the weak things of the world, whom God chose to confound the mighty." He was himself a herdsman only "among herdsmen;" but the words which he spake were not his own. They were words which he saw, not with eyes of flesh, but "with that vision wherewith words can be seen, the seer's vision in the mind." They were "words concerning," or rather "upon Israel," heavy words coming upon the heavy transgressions of Israel. The Hebrew word "saw" is not of mere sight, but of a vision given by God. Amos only says that they were "his" words, in order immediately to add, that they came to him from God, that he himself was but the human organ through which God spake.

Two years before the earthquake - This earthquake must plainly have been one of the greatest, since it was vividly in people's memories in the time of Zechariah, and Amos speaks of it as "the earthquake." The earthquakes of the east, like that of Lisbon, destroy whole cities. In one, a little before the birth of our Lord , "some ten thousand were buried under the ruined houses." This terrific earthquake (for as such Zechariah describes it) was one of the preludes of that displeasure of God, which Amos foretold. A warning of two years, and time for repentance, were given, "before the earthquake" should come, the token and beginning of a further shaking of both kingdoms, unless they should repent. In effect, it was the first flash of the lightning which consumed them.

THE BOOK OF AMOS Commentary by A. R. Faussett

INTRODUCTION

Amos (meaning in Hebrew "a burden") was (Am 1:1) a shepherd of Tekoa, a small town of Judah, six miles southeast from Beth-lehem, and twelve from Jerusalem, on the borders of the great desert (2Ch 20:20; compare 2Ch 11:6). The region being sandy was more fit for pastoral than for agricultural purposes. Amos therefore owned and tended flocks, and collected sycamore figs; not that the former was a menial office, kings themselves, as Mesha of Moab (2Ki 3:4), exercising it. Amos, however (from Am 7:14, 15), seems to have been of humble rank.

Though belonging to Judah, he was commissioned by God to exercise his prophetical function in Israel; as the latter kingdom abounded in impostors, and the prophets of God generally fled to Judah through fear of the kings of Israel, a true prophet from Judah was the more needed in it. His name is not to be confounded with that of Isaiah's father, Amoz.

The time of his prophesying was in the reigns of Uzziah king of Judea, and Jeroboam II, son of Joash, king of Israel (Am 1:1), that is, in part of the time in which the two kings were contemporary; probably in Jeroboam's latter years, after that monarch had recovered from Syria "the coast of Israel from the entering of Hamath to the sea of the plain" (2Ki 14:25-27); for Amos foretells that these same coasts, "from the entering in of Hamath unto the river of the wilderness," should be the scene of Israel's being afflicted (Am 6:14); also his references to the state of luxurious security then existing (Am 6:1, 4, 13), and to the speedy termination of it by the Assyrian foe (Am 1:5; 3:12, 15; 5:27; 8:2), point to the latter part of Jeroboam's reign, which terminated in 784 B.C., the twenty-seventh year of Uzziah's reign, which continued down to 759 B.C.

He was contemporary with Hosea, only that the latter continued to prophesy in reigns subsequent to Uzziah (Ho 1:1); whereas Amos ceased to prophesy in the reign of that monarch. The scene of his ministry was Beth-el, where the idol calves were set up (Am 7:10-13). There his prophecies roused Amaziah, the idol priest, to accuse him of conspiracy and to try to drive him back to Judah.

The first six chapters are without figure; the last three symbolical, but with the explanation subjoined. He first denounces the neighboring peoples, then the Jews, then Israel (from the third chapter to the end), closing with the promise or restoration under Messiah (Am 9:11-15). His style is thought by Jerome to betray his humble origin; but though not sublime, it is regular, perspicuous, and energetic; his images are taken from the scenes in nature with which he was familiar; his rhythms are flowing, his parallelisms exact, and his descriptions minute and graphic. Some peculiar expressions occur: "cleanness of teeth," that is, want of bread (Am 4:6); "the excellency of Jacob" (Am 6:8; 8:7); "the high places of Isaac" (Am 7:9); "the house of Isaac" (Am 7:16); "he that createth the wind" (Am 4:13).

Hengstenberg draws an able argument for the genuineness of the Mosaic records from the evidence in Amos, that the existing institutions in Israel as well as Judah (excepting the calves of Jeroboam), were framed according to the Pentateuch rules.

Two quotations from Amos occur in the New Testament (compare Ac 7:42, 43, with Am 5:25, 26; and Ac 15:16, 17, with Am 9:11).

Philo, Josephus, Melito's catalogue, Jerome, Justin Martyr (Dialogue with Trypho, 22, quoting the fifth and six chapters of Amos as "one of the twelve minor prophets"), and the sixtieth canon of the Laodicean council support the canonicity of the book of Amos.

CHAPTER 1

Am 1:1-15. God's Judgments on Syria, Philistia, Tyre, Edom, and Ammon.

1. The words of Amos—that is, Amos' oracular communications. A heading found only in Jer 1:1.

among the herdmen—rather, "shepherds"; both owning and tending sheep; from an Arabic root, "to mark with pricks," namely, to select the best among a species of sheep and goats ill-shapen and short-footed (as others explain the name from an Arabic root), but distinguished by their wool [Maurer]. God chooses "the weak things of the world to confound the mighty," and makes a humble shepherd reprove the arrogance of Israel and her king arising from prosperity (compare 1Sa 17:40).

which he saw—in supernatural vision (Isa 1:1).

two years before the earthquake—mentioned in Zec 14:5. The earthquake occurred in Uzziah's reign, at the time of his being stricken with leprosy for usurping the priest's functions [Josephus, Antiquities, 9:10.4]. This clause must have been inserted by Ezra and the compilers of the Jewish canon.The time when Amos prophesied, Amo 1:1-2. He showeth God's judgments upon Syria, Amo 1:3-5; upon the Philistines, Amo 1:6-8 upon Tyre, Amo 1:9-10; upon Edom, Amo 1:11-12; upon Ammon Amo 1:13-15.

The words: the Holy Ghost doth in this expression comprehensively take in all the sermons, visions, and predictions which Amos preached and published; all the exhortations to duty, the menaces against sins, the warnings of dangers coming, and the promises of mercy to them that hear and obey his words: see Hag 1:12. And so what Jeremiah preached to his auditors are the words of Jeremiah, Amo 1:1; and the instructions and counsel of Solomon are the words of the Preacher, Ecc 1:1. Both the things spoken and the words wherein they are spoken are included.

Amos: those who think this was father to the prophet Isaiah, either discern not the difference that is in the two Hebrew words, or pronounce hastily without considering what each is in the Hebrew, in which tongue these words have but two letters the same, i.e. M and O, the other are quite different; as also is the signification of each, for the one imports strength or might, the other imports a burden or heavy weight.

Among the herdmen, or shepherds, but whether one of the meaner or one of the chief, whether a master herdman or a servant, the word imports the former, yet because the Scripture doth not say, we shall not inquire, since it conduceth little to our profiting, nor will it add to his authority, since it is God who sent him.

Tekoa: whether it belonged to Zebulun, Asher, or Judah is not much material, though this last be most likely, for, 2Ch 11:5,6, we read of Rehoboam's building fortresses in Judah, among which Tekoa is mentioned. It was situate on a hill on the north of Judah, as a learned pen describeth it.

He saw; received by revelation: this tells us that the things as well as words were to be understood, when it is said that these were the words of Amos.

Israel; the kingdom of the ten tribes, revolted from the house of David, and now under the government of Jehu's great-grandson.

Uzziah; called also Azariah, who was smitten with a leprosy for intruding into the priest's office, 2Ch 26:16,19.

Judah; including the tribe of Benjamin, and such of the Levites as did adhere to the house of David, the kingdom of the house of David. Jeroboam; not son of Nebat, but grandson of Jehu. Joash; who had some successes against Syria, according to the prophecy of Elisha, by which successes Israel was raised from a declining to a thriving, prosperous state.

The earthquake; of which only this text, and Zec 14:5, do make particular mention, and where somewhat is spoken of it; which see. It is the tradition of the Jews, that this earthquake happened when Uzziah usurped the priest's work and offered incense in the temple, against which violation of Divine rites God testified thus from heaven, say they. Further than this we need not inquire in this matter. It was a great and dismal earthquake, and perhaps by this God did smite the winter and summer houses, as Amo 3:15; however, as it was foretold two years before it came, so we are sure it did come according to the time prefixed by the Lord.

The words of Amos,.... Not which he spoke of or for himself, but from the Lord; all the prophecies, visions, and revelations made unto him, are intended:

who was among the herdsmen of Tekoa; which was not in the tribe of Asher, as Kimchi; nor of Zebulun, as Pseudo-Epiphanius (i); but in the tribe of Judah, 2 Chronicles 11:5. It lay to the south, and was six miles from Bethlehem. Mr. Maundrell (k) says it is nine miles distant, to the south of it; and, according to Jerom (l), it was twelve miles from Jerusalem; though he elsewhere (m) says, Thecua, or Tekoa, is a village at this day, nine miles from Aelia or Jerusalem, of which place was Amos the prophet, and where his sepulchre is seen: either there is a mistake of the number, or of Aelia for Bethlehem; the former rather seems to be the case; according to Josephus (n), it was not far from the castle of Herodium. The Misnic doctors (o) speak of it as famous for oil, where the best was to be had; near to it was a wilderness, called the wilderness of Tekoa; and Jerom (p) says, that beyond it there was no village, nor so much as huts and cottages, but a large wilderness, which reached to the Red sea, and to the borders of the Persians, Ethiopians, and Indians, and was full of shepherds, among whom Amos was; whether he was a master herdsman, or a servant of one, is not said. The word is used of the king of Moab, who is said to be a "sheepmaster", 2 Kings 3:4; he traded in cattle, and got riches thereby; and so the Targum here renders it,

"who was lord or master of cattle;''

and Kimchi interprets it, he was a great man among the herdsmen; and so it was a piece of self-denial to leave his business, and go to prophesying; but rather he was a servant, and kept cattle for others, which best agrees with Amos 7:14; and so is expressive of the grace of God in calling so mean a person to such a high office. The word used signifies to mark; and shepherds were so called from marking their sheep to distinguish them, which seems to be the work of servants; and, in the Arabic language, a kind of sheep deformed, and of short feet, are so called:

which he saw concerning Israel; or, against Israel (q), the ten tribes, to whom he was sent, and against whom he prophesied chiefly; for he says very little of Judah. Words are more properly said to be spoken or heard; but here they are said to be seen; which shows that not bare words are meant, but things, which the prophet had revealed to him in a visionary way, and he delivered; see Isaiah 2:1;

in the days of Uzziah king of Judah; who was also called Azariah, 2 Kings 15:1;

and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel; so he is called to distinguish him from Jeroboam the son of Nebat; this king was the grandson of Jehu; he was, as Jerom says, before Sardanapalus reigned over the Assyrians, and Procas Sylvius over the Latines:

two years before the earthquake; which was well known in those times, and fresh in memory. Zechariah speaks of it many years after, from whom we learn it was in the days of Uzziah, Zechariah 14:5. The Jewish writers generally say that it was when Uzziah was smote with leprosy for invading the priest's office; and was in the year in which he died, when Isaiah had a vision of the glory of the Lord, and the posts of the house moved, Isaiah 6:1; and with whom Josephus (r) agrees; who also relates, that the temple being rent by the earthquake, the bright light of the sun shone upon the king's face, and the leprosy immediately seized him; and, at a place before the city called Eroge, half part of a mountain towards the west was broken and rolled half a mile towards the eastern part, and there stood, and stopped up the ways, and the king's gardens; but this cannot be true, as Theodoret observes; since, according to this account, Amos must begin to prophesy in the fiftieth year of Uzziah; for he reigned fifty two years, and he began his reign in the twenty seventh year of Jeroboam, 2 Kings 15:1; who reigned forty one years, 2 Kings 14:23; so that Uzziah and he were contemporary fourteen years only, and Jeroboam must have been dead thirty six years when it was the fiftieth of Uzziah; whereas they are here represented as contemporary when Amos began to prophesy, which was but two years before the earthquake; so that this earthquake must be in the former and not the latter part of Uzziah's reign, and consequently not when he was stricken with the leprosy.

(i) De Vita Prophet. c. 12. (k) Journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem, p. 88. (l) Proem. in Amos & Comment. in Jer. vi. 1.((m) De locis Hebr. in voce Elthei, fol. 91. B. (n) De Bello Jud. l. 4. c. 9. sect. 5. (o) Misn. Menachot, c. 8. sect. 3.((p) Proem. in Amos. (q) "contra Israelem", so some in Drusius. (r) Antiqu. l. 9. c. 10. sect. 4.

The words of Amos, who was among the herdmen of {a} Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of {b} Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel, two years before the {c} earthquake.

The Argument - Among many other Prophets that God raised up to admonish the Israelites of his plagues for their wickedness and idolatry, he stirred up Amos, who was a herdman or shepherd of a poor town, and gave him both knowledge and constancy to reprove all estates and degrees, and to make known God's horrible judgments against them, unless they repented in time. And he showed them, that if God did not spare the other nations around them, who had lived as it were in ignorance of God compared to them, but for their sins punished them, then they could look for nothing, but a horrible destruction, unless they turned to the Lord in true repentance. And finally, he comforts the godly with hope of the coming of the Messiah, by whom they would have perfect deliverance and salvation.

(a) Which was a town five miles from Jerusalem in Judea, but he prophesied in Israel.

(b) In his days the kingdom of Israel flourished the most.

(c) Which as Josephus writes, was when Uzziah would have usurped the priest's office, and therefore was smitten with leprosy.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Amos 1:1. The Heading

The words of] The same title as Jeremiah 1:1; Ecclesiastes 1:1; Proverbs 30:1; Proverbs 31:1; Nehemiah 1:1.

among] i.e. one of, of: see (in the Heb.) 1 Kings 2:7; Proverbs 22:26.

herdmen] naḳad-keepers. The word (nôḳçd) is a peculiar one: its meaning appears from the Arabic. In Arabic naḳad denotes a species of sheep, found especially in the province of Baḥreyn, small and stunted in growth, with short legs and ill-formed faces (whence an Arabic proverb, “Viler than a naḳad”), but esteemed on account of their choice wool (see Bochart, Hierozoicon ii. xliv., p. 442 f., who cites the saying, “The best of wool is that of the naḳad”; or Lane’s Arabic Lexicon, p. 2837). In Arabic naḳḳâd is a shepherd who tends sheep of this kind; and the Heb. nôḳçd is a word of similar import. It may be inferred from this passage that there was a settlement of such naḳad-keepers at Tekoa: the occupation was perhaps hereditary in particular families (comp. the families following hereditary trades in 1 Chronicles 2:55; 1 Chronicles 4:21; 1 Chronicles 4:23). The word occurs once besides, of Mesha, king of Moab, 2 Kings 3:4.

Tekoa] now Teḳû‘a, on the high ground of Judah, 12 miles S. of Jerusalem, and 6 miles S. of Bethlehem, from which, as Jerome (Comm. on Jeremiah 6:1) remarks, it is visible (“Thecuam quoque viculum in monte situm … quotidie oculis cernimus”). The ruins—dating principally from early Christian times—lie on an elevated hill, not steep, but broad on the top, and cover some four or five acres. South, west, and north the view is blocked by limestone hills; but on the east the prospect is open, though desolate; the land slopes away for nearly 18 miles to the Dead Sea, lying some 4,000 feet beneath, dropping first “by broken rocks to slopes spotted with bushes of ‘retem,’ the broom of the desert, and patches of poor wheat,” then to “a maze of low hills and shallow dales,” clad with a thin covering of verdure, the Wilderness or Pasture-land of Tekoa (2 Chronicles 20:22; 1Ma 9:33), afterwards to a “chaos of hills,” with steep and rugged sides, leading down rapidly to the shore of the Dead Sea (G. A. Smith, The Book of the Twelve Prophets, p. 74 f.). The northern half of this sea is visible from Tekoa, the level mountains of Moab forming the horizon beyond. Jerome (Pref. to Amos) speaks of Tekoa as abounding in shepherds with their flocks, the soil being too dry and sandy to be cultivated for grain. It was the home of the ‘wise woman,’ whom Joab employed to intercede with David on Absalom’s behalf (2 Samuel 14:2; 2 Samuel 14:4; 2 Samuel 14:9).

saw] beheld: not the ordinary Hebrew word for seeing (râ’âh), but ḥâzâh, a word which is sometimes merely a poetical synonym of râ’âh (e.g. Psalm 58:8; Psalm 58:10), but elsewhere is applied in particular to beholding, or gazing in prophetic vision: Numbers 24:4; Numbers 24:16, Isaiah 30:10 “which say to the seers (rô’îm), See not; and to the gazers (ḥôzîm). Gaze not for us right things, speak unto us smooth things, gaze deceits” (i.e. illusory visions of peace and security), Ezekiel 12:27; of false prophecies, Ezekiel 13:6-9; Ezekiel 13:16; Ezekiel 13:23; Ezekiel 21:29; Ezekiel 22:28, Lamentations 2:14, Zechariah 10:2; and, as here, in the titles of prophecies, Isaiah 1:1; Isaiah 2:1; Isaiah 13:1; Micah 1:1; Habakkuk 1:1). The vision, especially in the earlier history of prophecy, appears often as a form of prophetic intuition: comp. ḥôzeh, “gazer,” Amos 7:12 (see note): ḥâzôn, vision (1 Samuel 3:1; Isaiah 1:1, &c.; Ezekiel 7:26; Lamentations 2:9), more rarely ḥizzâyôn (2 Samuel 7:17; Isaiah 22:1; Isaiah 22:5), ḥâzûth (Isaiah 21:2; Isaiah 29:11), or maḥǎzeh (Genesis 15:1; Numbers 24:4; Numbers 24:16). An interesting passage, illustrating the early frequency of the vision, is Hosea 12:10 : comp. also Amos 7-9. As the vision was once the predominant form of prophetic intuition, ḥâzôn becomes a general designation of “prophecy,” or “revelation”; and ḥâzâh, “to behold,” is even applied inexactly to word or utterance (Isaiah 2:1; Isaiah 13:1; Micah 1:1; Habakkuk 1:1), as here to words. See further on Amos 7:1.

concerning Israel] i.e. the Northern kingdom, which Amos expressly visited (Amos 7:15), and to which his prophecies are almost entirely addressed, Judah being referred to only incidentally (Amos 2:4 f., Amos 6:1; Amos 7:12), or implicitly (Amos 3:1, ‘the whole family’; perhaps Amos 9:8-9), and in the final promise of future restoration (Amos 9:11-12).

in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, &c.] On the date implied in these words see the Introduction, p. 98.

two year before the earthquake] Earthquakes are not unfrequent in Palestine, particularly on its Eastern and Western borders (see on Amos 4:11). The earthquake referred to here must have been one of exceptional severity: for not only is Amos’ prophecy dated by it, but the terror occasioned by it is alluded to long afterwards, Zechariah 14:5, “yea, ye shall flee—viz. through the rent made in the Mount of Olives, Amos 1:4—like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah, king of Judah.”Verse 1. - Heading. The words. So Jeremiah begins his prophecy (Jeremiah 1:1), and the writer of Ecclesiastes (Ecclesiastes 1:1). That the words am not those of Amos, but of Jehovah, is shown by the succeeding clause, "which he saw." Herdmen. The Hebrew word noked used here is found in 2 Kings 3:4, applied to Mesha King of Moab, a great "sheepmaster;" hence some have considered that Amos was not a mere mercenary, but a rich possessor of flocks. His own words, however (Amos 7:14, 15), decide his position as that of a poor labouring man. Tekoah. A small town of Judah (see above in the account of the author, Introduction, § II.). He saw, with inward intuition. Hence his "words" were inspired (comp. Isaiah 2:1; Habakkuk 1:1). Concerning Israel chiefly, mention of Judah being introduced only incidentally and as connected with the destinies of Israel The Septuagint reads, by some mistake, "concerning Jerusalem." In the days. (For the date of the prophecy, see above, Introduction, § III.) Earthquake. No mention is made of this event in the historical books. It was remembered in after years (see Zechariah 14:5), and Amos alludes to it as a token of the judgment which he foretold, such catastrophes being regarded as signs of the majesty of God and his vengeance on sinners (comp. Exodus 19:18: Psalm 68:8; Micah 1:4; Habakkuk 3:6, 10), Josephus ('Ant.,' 9:10. 4) attributes this earthquake to God's displeasure at Uzziah's usurpation of the priest's office (2 Chronicles 26:16). "The days of visitation are come, the days of retribution are come; Israel will learn: a fool the prophet, a madman the man of spirit, for the greatness of thy guilt, and the great enmity. Hosea 9:8. A spy is Ephraim with my God: the prophet a snare of the bird-catcher in all his ways, enmity in the house of his God. Hosea 9:9. They have acted most corruptly, as in the days of Gibeah: He remembers their iniquity, visits their sins." The perfects in Hosea 9:7 are prophetic. The time of visitation and retribution is approaching. Then will Israel learn that its prophets, who only predicted prosperity and good (Ezekiel 13:10), were infatuated fools. אויל וגו introduces, without kı̄, what Israel will experience, as in Hosea 7:2; Amos 5:12. It does not follow, from the use of the expression 'ı̄sh rūăch, that the reference is to true prophets. 'Ish rūăch (a man of spirit) is synonymous with the 'ı̄sh hōlēkh rūăch (a man walking in the spirit) mentioned in Micah 2:11 as prophesying lies, and may be explained from the fact, that even the false prophets stood under the influence of a superior demoniacal power, and were inspired by a rūăch sheqer ("a lying spirit," 1 Kings 22:22). The words which follow, viz., "a fool is the prophet," etc., which cannot possibly mean, that men have treated, despised, and persecuted the prophets as fools and madmen, are a decisive proof that the expression does not refer to true prophets. על רב עונך is attached to the principal clauses, השּׁלּם ... בּאוּ. The punishment and retribution occur because of the greatness of the guilt of Israel. In ורבּה the preposition על continues in force, but as a conjunction: "and because the enmity is great" (cf. Ewald, 351, a). Mastēmâh, enmity, not merely against their fellow-men generally, but principally against God and His servants the true prophets. This is sustained by facts in Hosea 9:8. The first clause, which is a difficult one and has been interpreted in very different ways, "spying is Ephraim עם אלהי" (with or by my God), cannot contain the thought that Ephraim, the tribe, is, according to its true vocation, a watchman for the rest of the people, whose duty it is to stand with the Lord upon the watch-tower and warn Israel when the Lord threatens punishment and judgment (Jerome, Schmidt); for the idea of a prophet standing with Jehovah upon a watch-tower is not only quite foreign to the Old Testament, but irreconcilable with the relation in which the prophets stood to Jehovah. The Lord did indeed appoint prophets as watchmen to His people (Ezekiel 3:17); but He does take His own stand upon the watch-tower with them. Tsâphâh in this connection, where prophets are spoken of both before and after, can only denote the eager watching on the part of the prophets for divine revelations, as in Habakkuk 2:1, and not their looking out for help; and עם אלהי cannot express their fellowship or agreement with God, if only on account of the suffix "my God," in which Hosea contrasts the true God as His own, with the God of the people. The thought indicated would require אלהיו, a reading which is indeed met with in some codices, but is only a worthless conjecture. עם denotes outward fellowship here: "with" equals by the side of. Israel looks out for prophecies or divine revelations with the God of the prophet, i.e., at the side of Jehovah; in other words, it does not follow or trust its own prophets, who are not inspired by Jehovah. These are like snares of a bird-catcher in its road, i.e., they cast the people headlong into destruction. נביא stands at the head, both collectively and absolutely. In all its ways there is the trap of the bird-catcher: i.e., all its projects and all that it does will only tend to ensnare the people. Hostility to Jehovah and His servants the true prophets, is in the house of the God of the Israelites, i.e., in the temple erected for the calf-worship; a fact of which Amos (Amos 7:10-17) furnishes a practical example. Israel has thereby fallen as deeply into abomination and sins as in the days of Gibeah, i.e., as at the time when the abominable conduct of the men of Gibeah in connection with the concubine of a Levite took place, as related in Judges 19ff., in consequence of which the tribe of Benjamin was almost exterminated. The same depravity on the part of Israel will be equally punished by the Lord now (cf. Hosea 8:13).
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