Amos 8:12
And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(12) They shall wander from sea to sea . . .—Stagger and reel from east to west to find one seer who knows the mind of the Lord: they shall not find one. The reference to the east here has an instructive parallel in Isaiah 2:6, where the house of Jacob is enounced as being “full of the east.” Probably Delitzsch is right in interpreting the east there to mean Arabia as inclusive of the whole tract from the Sinaitic peninsula to the banks of the Euphrates. The north would mean Phœnicia and Aram. From these districts the distracted superstitious Hebrew sought vain help in idolatrous forms of divination.

Amos 8:12-13. And they shall wander from sea to sea — From the sea of Tiberias to the great sea, from one border of the country to another. And from the north even to the east — The prophet omits naming the south, because the idolaters, to whom he directs his discourse, would choose to inquire anywhere rather than of the true prophets of the Lord, who dwelt in the tribe of Judah, which was situated to the south of the ten tribes. They shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord — To inquire if there be any prophet, any prophecy, any message from God, any divine direction what course to take in their distress — any encouragement to expect deliverance from their calamities, and happier times. In that day shall the fair virgins, &c. — They who are in the bloom of their youth and in the strength of their age, shall faint, and be dispirited like those that want necessary refreshment.8:11-14 Here was a token of God's highest displeasure. At any time, and most in a time of trouble, a famine of the word of God is the heaviest judgment. To many this is no affliction, yet some will feel it very much, and will travel far to hear a good sermon; they feel the loss of the mercies others foolishly sin away. But when God visits a backsliding church, their own plans and endeavours to find out a way of salvation, will stand them in no stead. And the most amiable and zealous would perish, for want of the water of life, which Christ only can bestow. Let us value our advantages, seek to profit by them, and fear sinning them away.They shall wander - Literally, "reel." The word is used of the reeling of drunkards, of the swaying to and fro of trees in the wind, of the quivering of the lips of one agitated, and then of the unsteady seeking of persons bewildered, looking for what they know not where to find. "From sea to sea," from the sea of Galilee to the Mediterranean, that is, from east to west, "and from the north even to the sunrising," round again to the east, from where their search had begun, where light should be, and was not. It may be, that Amos refers to the description of the land by Moses, adapting it to the then separate condition of Ephraim, "your south border shall be from the extremity of the Salt Sea (Dead Sea) eastward - and the goings out of it shall be at the sea, and for the western border ye shall have the great sea for a border. And this shall be your north border - and the border shall descend and shall reach to the side of the sea of Chinnereth eastward" Numbers 34:3-12. Amos does not mention "the south," because "there" alone, where they might have found, where the true worship of God was, they did not seek. Had they sought God in Judah, instead of seeking to aggrandize themselves by its subdual, Tiglath-pileser would probably never have come against them. One expedition only in the seventeen years of his reign was directed westward , and that was at the petition of Ahaz.

The principle of God's dealings, that, in certain conditions of a sinful people, He will withdraw His word, is instanced in Israel, not limited to it. God says to Ezekiel, "I will make thy tongue cleave to the roof of thy mouth, and thou shalt be dumb; and shalt not be to them a reprover, for it is a rebellious house" Ezekiel 3:26; and Ezekiel says, "Destruction shall come upon destruction, and rumor shall be upon rumor, and they shall seek a vision from the prophet, and the law shall perish from the priest and counsel from the ancients" Ezekiel 7:26. : "God turns away from them, and checks the grace of prophecy. For since they neglected His law, He on His side, stays the prophetic gift. "And the word was precious in those days, there was no open vision," that is, God did not speak to them through the prophets; He breathed not upon them the Spirit through which they spake. He did not appear to them, but is silent and hidden. There was silence, enmity between God and man."

12. they shall wander from sea to sea—that is, from the Dead Sea to the Mediterranean, from east to west.

from … north … to … east—where we might expect "from north to south." But so alienated was Israel from Judah, that no Israelite even then would think of repairing southward, that is, to Jerusalem for religious information. The circuit is traced as in Nu 34:3, &c., except that the south is omitted. Their "seeking the word of the Lord" would not be from a sincere desire to obey God, but under the pressure of punishment.

They shall wander from sea to sea; search all places for a prophet or a preacher from the Syrian or Midland Sea to that of Tiberias, to the Dead Sea, and to the Red Sea.

From the north even to the east; that mountainous tract whither persecuted Elijah fled, and perhaps other prophets in like circumstances retired; proverbially, they shall search all corners for a prophet.

They shall run to and fro; shall diligently and speedily, on every report that a prophet is, on hearsays, in such or such a place, hasten thither, as Ahab in his search for Elijah, 1 Kings 18:10.

To seek the word of the Lord; hoping to hear some good news of an end of their miseries from God by a prophet.

And shall not find it; they persecuted and slew such as foretold the beginning of this misery, and now it is come they shall neither hear the news nor see the hopes of an end. God did tell them it would be utter ruin, and no prophet of God can tell them any better news. And they shall wander from sea to sea,.... From the sea of Tiberias, or Galilee; or from the Dead sea, the lake Asphaltites; or from the Red sea, which was to the south of the land of Israel, to the great sea, which is to the west, as Aben Ezra: so the Targum,

"from the sea to the west;''

that is, to the Mediterranean sea:

and from the north even to the east; proceeding from the south to the west, they shall turn from thence to the north, and so to the east, which describes the borders of the land of Canaan, Numbers 34:3; and the sense is, that

they shall go to and fro; throughout the whole land, and all over it,

to seek the word of the Lord; not the written word, but the interpretation of it; doctrine from before the Lord, as the Targum; the preaching of the word, or ministers to instruct them in it; or the word of prophecy, and prophets to tell them when it would be better times, and how long their present distress should last:

and shall not find it; there should be no ministry, no preaching, no prophesying; as never since among the ten tribes, so it has been the case of the Jews, the two tribes, upon the rejection of the Messiah; the Gospel was taken from them; no tidings could they hear of the Messiah, though they ran to and fro to find him, it being told them Lo, here, and Lo, there; see John 7:34.

And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the {h} word of the LORD, and shall not find it.

(h) By which he shows that they will not only perish in body, but also in soul for lack of God's word, which is the food of it.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
12. wander] go tottering (comp. on Amos 4:8), with allusion to the uncertain gait of persons partly (Amos 8:13) exhausted, and partly bewildered, not knowing where to find what they are in search of (cf. Lamentations 4:15).

from sea to sea] i.e. from the Dead Sea, the S. limit of the kingdom of Israel (2 Kings 14:25), to the Mediterranean, its western boundary.

and from the north even to the sun-rising] returning thus to the point from which they started, and so completing the circuit of the land.

to seek the word of Jehovah] The expression may be illustrated from 1 Kings 22:5 (Jehoshaphat) “Inquire, I pray thee, first of the word of Jehovah,” Amos 8:7 “Is there not here besides a prophet of Jehovah that we might inquire of him?” (similarly 2 Kings 3:11); from the phrase “the word of Jehovah is with” such and such a prophet, 2 Kings 3:12, Jeremiah 27:18; and from the question put by Zedekiah in his anxiety to Jeremiah (Jeremiah 37:17) “Is there a word from Jehovah?”

and shall not find it] Cf. 1 Samuel 28:6 (of Saul); Ezekiel 7:26.Verse 12. - They shall wander; literally, they shall reel. The verse implies the eagerness of their unsatisfied desire, which seeks everywhere for the revelation which for their sin is denied them. From sea to sea. This expression is taken, by Keil and others, to mean here "all the world over," as Psalm 72:8; Micah 7:12; Zechariah 9:10; but it is probably used by the prophet in a more restricted sense, as it would not be natural for him to refer in the first place to the seeking of the words of God beyond the limits of the Holy Land. Therefore "from sea to sea" means from the Sea of Galilee or the Dead Sea to the Mediterranean; and from the north even to the east - from the north round again to the east, the south not being mentioned, because there alone was the true worship of God to be found, and they refused to seek it there (Pusey). Of course, according to the wide scope taken by prophecy, which is not exhausted by one fulfilment, we may see here the fate of the Jews to the present time hopelessly seeking Messiah and the Word of God, never finding that which they once recklessly rejected. By some error the LXX. render, Σαλευθήσονται ὕδατα ἀπὸ τῆς θαλάσσης κ.τ.λ., unless they mean, "They shall be tossed as waters," etc. (Heb. Bib. ch. 4.) Judgment upon the World of Nations, and Glorification of Zion- Joel 3:1, Joel 3:2. "For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall turn the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather together all nations, and bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will contend with them there concerning my people and my inheritance Israel, which they have scattered among the nations, and my land have they divided. Joel 3:3. And for my people they cast the lot; and gave the boy for a harlot, and the maiden they have sold for wine, and drunk (it)." The description of the judgment-day predicted in Joel 2:31 commences with an explanatory כּי. The train of thought is the following: When the day of the Lord comes, there will be deliverance upon Zion only for those who call upon the name of the Lord; for then will all the heathen nations that have displayed hostility to Jehovah's inheritance be judged in the valley of Jehoshaphat. By hinnēh, the fact to be announced is held up as something new and important. The notice as to the time points back to the "afterward" in Joel 2:28 : "in those days," viz., the days of the outpouring of the Spirit of God. This time is still further described by the apposition, "at that time, when I shall turn the captivity of Judah," as the time of the redemption of the people of God out of their prostrate condition, and out of every kind of distress. שׁוּב את שׁבוּת is not used here in the sense of "to bring back the prisoners," but, as in Hosea 6:11, in the more comprehensive sense of restitutio in integrum, which does indeed include the gathering together of those who were dispersed, and the return of the captives, as one element, though it is not exhausted by this one element, but also embraces their elevation into a new and higher state of glory, transcending their earlier state of grace. In וקבּצתּי the prediction of judgment is appended to the previous definition of the time in the form of an apodosis. The article in כּל־הגּוים (all the nations) does not refer to "all those nations which were spoken of in Hosea 1:1-11 and 2 under the figure of the locusts" (Hengstenberg), but is used because the prophet had in his mind all those nations upon which hostility towards Israel, the people of God, is charged immediately afterwards as a crime: so that the article is used in much the same manner as in Jeremiah 49:36, because the notion, though in itself an indefinite one, is more fully defined in what follows (cf. Ewald, 227, a). The valley of Yehōshâphât, i.e., Jehovah judges, is not the valley in which the judgment upon several heathen nations took place under Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20), and which received the name of Valley of blessing, from the feast of thanksgiving which Jehoshaphat held there (2 Chronicles 20:22-26), as Ab. Ezra, Hofmann, Ewald, and others suppose; for the "Valley of blessing" was not "the valley of Kidron, which was selected for that festival in the road back from the desert of Tekoah to Jerusalem" (see Bertheau on 2 Chronicles c.), and still less "the plain of Jezreel" (Kliefoth), but was situated in the neighbourhood of the ruins of Bereikût, which have been discovered by Wolcott (see Ritter, Erdkunde, xv. p. 635, and Van de Velde, Mem. p. 292). On the other hand, the valley of Jehoshaphat is unquestionably to be sought for, according to this chapter (as compared with Zechariah 14:4), in or near Jerusalem; and the name, which does not occur anywhere else in either the Old or New Testament, excepting here and in Joel 3:12, is formed by Joel, like the name ‛ēmeq hechârūts in v. 14, from the judgment which Jehovah would hold upon the nations there. The tradition of the church (see Euseb. and Jerome in the Onom. s.v. κοιλάς, Caelas, and Itiner. Anton. p. 594; cf. Robinson, Pal. i. pp. 396, 397) has correctly assigned it to the valley of the Kidron, on the eastern side of Jerusalem, or rather to the northern part of that valley (2 Samuel 18:18), or valley of Shaveh (Genesis 14:17). There would the Lord contend with the nations, hold judgment upon them, because they had attacked His people (nachălâthı̄, the people of Jehovah, as in Joel 2:17) and His kingdom ('artsı̄). The dispersion of Israel among the nations, and the division (חלּק) of the Lord's land, cannot, of course, refer to the invasion of Judah by the Philistines and Arabians in the time of Joram (2 Chronicles 21:16-17). For although these foes did actually conquer Jerusalem and plunder it, and carried off, among other captives, even the sons of the king himself, this transportation of a number of prisoners cannot be called a dispersion of the people of Israel among the heathen; still less can the plundering of the land and capital be called a division of the land of Jehovah; to say nothing of the fact, that the reference here is to the judgment which would come upon all nations after the outpouring of the Spirit of God upon all flesh, and that it is not till Joel 3:4-8 that Joel proceeds to speak of the calamities which neighbouring nations had inflicted upon the kingdom of Judah. The words presuppose as facts that have already occurred, both the dispersion of the whole nation of Israel in exile among the heathen, and the conquest and capture of the whole land by heathen nations, and that in the extent to which they took place under the Chaldeans and Romans alone.
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