Amos 3:14
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.
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3:9-15 That power which is an instrument of unrighteousness, will justly be brought down and broken. What is got and kept wrongfully, will not be kept long. Some are at ease, but there will come a day of visitation, and in that day, all they are proud of, and put confidence in, shall fail them. God will inquire into the sins of which they have been guilty in their houses, the robbery they have stored up, and the luxury in which they lived. The pomp and pleasantness of men's houses, do not fortify against God's judgments, but make sufferings the more grievous and vexatious. Yet a remnant, according to the election of grace, will be secured by our great and good Shepherd, as from the jaws of destruction, in the worst times.In the day that I shall visit the transgression of Israel upon, him, I will also visit (upon) the altars of Bethel - Israel then hoped that its false worship of "nature" would avail it. God says, contrariwise, that when He should punish, all their false worship, so far from helping them, should itself be the manifest object of His displeasure. Again God attests, at once, His long-suffering and His final retribution. Still had He foreborne to punish, "being slow to anger and of great goodness;" but when that day, fixed by the divine Wisdom, should come, wherein He should vindicate His own holiness, by enduring the sin no longer, then He would "visit their transgressions," that is, all of them, old and new, forgotten by man or remembered, "upon them." Scripture speaks of "visiting offences upon" because, in God's Providence, the sin returns upon a man's own head. It is not only the cause of his being punished, but it becomes part of his punishment.

The memory of a man's sins will be part of his eternal suffering. Even in this life, "remorse," as distinct from repentance, is the "gnawing" of a man's own conscience for the folly of his sin. Then also God would visit upon the false worship. It is thought that God visits less speedily even grave sins against Himself, (so that man does not appeal falsely to Him and make Him, in a way, a partner of his offence,) than sins against His own creature, man. It may be that, All-Merciful as He is, He bears the rather with sins, involving corruption of the truth as to Himself, so long as they are done in ignorance, on account of the ignorant worship Acts 17:23, Acts 17:30; Acts 14:16 of Himself, or the fragments of truth which they contain, until the evil in them have its full sway in moral guilt Romans 1. Montanus: "Wonderful is the patience of God in enduring all those crimes and injuries which pertain directly to Himself; wonderful His waiting for repentance. But the deeds of guilt which violate human society, faith, and justice, hasten judgment and punishment, and, as it were, with a most effectual cry call upon the Divine Mind to punish, as it is written, "The voices of thy brother's blood crieth unto Me from the ground, And now cursed art thou, ..." Genesis 4:10-11.

If then upon that very grave guilt against God Himself there be accumulated these other sins, this so increases the load, that God casts it out. However long then Israel with impunity, given itself to that vain, alien worship, this evinced the patience, not the approval, of God. Now, when they are to be punished for the fourth transgresston, they will be punished for the first, second and third, and so, most grievously; when brought to punishment for their other sins, they should suffer for their other guilt of impiety and superstition."

And the horns of the altar - This was the one great "altar" 1 Kings 12:32-33; 1 Kings 13:1-5 for burnt-offerings, set up by Jeroboam, in imitation of that of God at Jerusalem, whose doom was pronounccd in the act of its would-be consecration. He had copied faithfully outward form. At each corner, where the two sides met in one, rose the "horn," or pillar, a cubit high , there to sacrifice victims, Psalm 118:27, there to place the blood of atonement Exodus 29:12. So far from atoning, they themselves were "the" unatoned "sin" of "Jeroboam whereby 2 Kings 17:21 he drove Israel from following the Lord, and made them sin a great sin. These were to be cut off; hewn down, with violence. A century and a half had passed, since the man of God had pronounced its sentence. They still stood. The day was not yet come; Josiah was still unborn; yet Amos, as peremptorily, renews the sentence. In rejecting these, whereon the atonement was made, God pronounced them out of covenant with Himself. Heresy makes itself as like as it can to the truth, but is thereby the more deceiving, not the less deadly. Amos mentions the altars of Bethel, as well as the altar. Jeroboam made but one altar, keeping as close as he could to the divine ritual. But false worship and heresy ever hold their course, developing themselves. They never stand still where they began, but spread, like a cancer 2 Timothy 2:17. It is a test of heresy, like leprosy, that it spreads abroad Leviticus 13, preying on what at first seemed sound. The oneness of the altar had relation to the Unity of God. In Samaria, they worshiped, they know not what John 4:22, not God, but some portion of His manifold operations. The many altars, forbidden as they were, were more in harmony with the religion of Jeroboam, even because they were against God's law. Heresy develops, becoming more consistent, by having less of truth.

14. That—rather, "since," or "for." This verse is not, as English Version translates, the thing which the witnesses cited are to "testify" (Am 3:13), but the reason why God calls on the heathen to witness Samaria's guilt; namely, in order to justify the punishment which He declares He will inflict.

I will also visit … Beth-el—the golden calves which were the source of all "the transgressions of Israel" (1Ki 12:32; 13:2; 2Ki 23:15, 16), though Israel thought that by them their transgressions were atoned for and God's favor secured.

horns of the altar—which used to be sprinkled with the blood of victims. They were horn-like projecting points at the corners of ancient altars. The singular, "altar," refers to the great altar erected by Jeroboam to the calves. The "altars," plural, refer to the lesser ones made in imitation of the great one (2Ch 34:5, compare with 1Ki 13:2; Ho 8:11; 10:1).

In the day; in the appointed time, and within compass of a little time too; God will in his set time make quick work with them.

Visit the transgressions of Israel upon him; the many and great transgressions of the ten tribes, these God will, as he hath foretold by his prophets, severely punish, and in particular their idolatry.

The altars, erected unto the calves, and on which they Offered sacrifices to those idols by Jeroboam’s appointment at first, and by the continued commands of their idolatrous governors. It is possible there might be altars to other idols too: see 2 Chronicles 34:4 Hosea 8:11 10:1.

Beth-el; anciently called Luz, but afterwards Jacob, on his comfortable vision, did change its name into Beth-el; it was in the tribe of Benjamin, and one of the two places Jeroboam first set up his idolatry in.

The horns of the altar; whether a more sacred part in their account I know not, but who fled to the altar, and laid hold on the horns of it, found them a sanctuary, 1 Kings 2:28; but these now should not be safety to themselves.

Shall be cut off, the altars shall be pulled down,

and fall to the ground; be cast out as common, and trodden under foot with contempt.

That in the day that I shall visit the transgressions of Israel upon him,.... The three or four mentioned in the preceding chapter, the great multitude of them, their profaneness, uncleanness, and luxury, their injustice and oppression of the poor; when he should visit and punish for these sins, as he would by the hand of the Assyrian, he would not forget their idolatry; though no notice is taken of this before, in the appeal to the Heathen princes, who were likewise guilty of it:

I will also visit the altars of Bethel; where one of the calves Jeroboam made was set up and worshipped; and where was an altar erected, and sacrifice offered on it, 1 Kings 12:28; and here the plural number is put for the singular; though it may be, that in process of time more altars might be set up as they increased in idolatry, and as seems from Hosea 8:11; and now the Lord would show his resentment at them, and punish those that worshipped and sacrificed there. So the Targum,

"that worship at the altars in Bethel;''

and the horns of the altar shall be cut off, and fall to the ground; for it seems this altar was made after the form of that at Jerusalem, with four horns at the four corners of it; and which were reckoned the more principal parts of it, and the more sacred, where the blood of the sacrifices was poured, and to which persons in distress fled and laid hold of for refuge; but now these should be of no use unto them, since they would be entirely demolished by the enemy, and laid level with the ground.

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.
14. visit] Cf. on Amos 3:2.

I will also visit] I will visit: there is no ‘also’; the וְ, by a common Hebrew idiom, merely introduces the verbal predicate.

the altars of Beth-el] Beth-el, now Beitin, was in Amos’s day the principal sanctuary of the northern kingdom. It lay on the sloping side of a low hill about 10 miles N. of Jerusalem, on the right hand of the great route leading northwards to Shechem and Samaria. It must have been regarded as a sacred spot from very early times: its maẓẓçbâh, or sacred stone pillar, was connected by tradition with a memorable occasion in the life of the patriarch Jacob (Genesis 28:10-22; cf. Genesis 35:1-8; Hosea 12:4; it is alluded to as a sanctuary in 1 Samuel 10:3); and its time-honoured sanctity, taken in conjunction with its situation at the extreme south of Jeroboam’s kingdom, on the immediate route to Jerusalem, no doubt led him to select it as one of his chief sanctuaries (1 Kings 12:28-33). Here he established one of the two calves of gold, erected an altar, and instituted a priesthood to serve it (ib.: cf. Amos 7:10). Amos represents Beth-el as being the most popular sanctuary of the northern kingdom: it was under the special patronage of the king (Amos 7:13); altars (in the plural) had taken the place of the single altar of Jeroboam I. (1 Kings 13:1); the sanctuary was crowded with worshippers (Amos 9:1); an elaborate ritual was observed there (Amos 4:4-5), and the houses of the wealthy were numerous (Amos 3:15). Comp. also Amos 3:5; Hosea 4:15; Hosea 10:5; Hosea 10:8; Hosea 10:15. The altar and sanctuary of Beth-el were finally destroyed by Josiah (2 Kings 23:15). At present Beth-el is nothing more than a poor village, containing, it is said, about 400 persons. See Rob. B.R[148] i. 448 f.; Stanley, S. and P. pp. 217–223; Memoirs of the P. E. F. Survey, ii. 295 f.; Moore, Comm. on Judges, pp. 40, 42, 433.

[148] .R. … Edw. Robinson, Biblical Researches in Palestine (ed. 2, 1856).

the horns of the altar] which conferred the right of asylum upon those who laid hold of them (see 1 Kings 1:50-51; 1 Kings 2:28): but even this refuge should fail Israel in the day of visitation, which Amos here foresees. On the ‘horns’ of the altar, see also Jeremiah 17:1; Ezekiel 43:15; Ezekiel 43:20; Exodus 27:2 (on the altar of burnt-offering); Exodus 30:2 (on the altar of incense); Psalm 118:27. They were an important adjunct to the altar: and at least in the ritual of the Temple at Jerusalem the ceremonial of atonement could in many cases only be completed upon them (Leviticus 4:7; Leviticus 4:18; Leviticus 4:25; Leviticus 4:30; Leviticus 4:34). A stelè from Teima (S.E. of Edom), containing an interesting Aramaic inscription, shews the ‘horns’ rising from the corner of an altar, and curved like those of an ox (Perrot and Chipiez, Hist. of Art in Sardinia, Judaea, &c., i. 304).

14–15. The thought of Amos 3:11 is further developed. The ruin will be complete: the idolatrous altars, and the sumptuous palaces, will alike be involved in it.

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. Amos 3:14This feature in the threat is brought out into peculiar prominence by a fresh introduction. Amos 3:13. "Hear ye, and testify it to the house of Jacob, is the utterance of the Lord, Jehovah, the God of hosts: Amos 3:14. That in the day when I visit the transgressions of the house of Israel upon it, I shall visit it upon the altars of Bethel; and the horns of the altar will be cut off, and fall to the ground. Amos 3:15. And I smite the winter-house over the summer-house, and the houses of ivory perish, and many houses vanish, is the saying of Jehovah." The words "Hear ye" cannot be addressed to the Israelites, fore they could not bear witness against the house of Israel, but must either refer to the prophets, as in Amos 3:9 ("publish ye"), or to the heathen, in which case they correspond to "assemble yourselves and behold" in Amos 3:9. The latter assumption is the only correct one, for the context does not assign a sufficient motive for an address to the prophets. On the other hand, as the heathen have been summoned to convince themselves by actual observation of the sins that prevail in Samaria, it is perfectly in keeping that they should now hear what is the punishment that God is about to inflict upon Israel in consequence, and that they should bear witness against Israel from what they have heard. העיד ב, to bear witness towards or against (not "in," as Baur supposes). The house of Jacob is the whole of Israel, of the twelve tribes, as in Amos 3:1; for Judah was also to learn a lesson from the destruction of Samaria. As the appeal to the heathen to bear witness against Israel indicates the greatness of the sins of the Israelites, so, on the other hand, does the accumulation of the names of God in Amos 3:13 serve to strengthen the declaration made by the Lord, who possesses as God of hosts the power to execute His threats. כּי introduces the substance of what is to be heard. The punishment of the sins of Israel is to extend even to the altars of Bethel, the seat of the idolatrous image-worship, the hearth and home of the religious and moral corruption of the ten tribes. The smiting off of the horns of the altar is the destruction of the altars themselves, the significance of which culminated in the horns (see at Exodus 27:2). The singular hammizbēăch (the altar) preceded by a plural is the singular of species (cf. Ges. 108, 1), and does not refer to any particular one - say, for example, to the principal altar. The destruction of the palaces and houses (Amos 3:15) takes place in the capital. In the reference to the winter-house and summer-house, we have to think primarily of the royal palace (cf. Jeremiah 36:22); at the same time, wealthy noblemen may also have had them. על, lit., over, so that the ruins of one house fall upon the top of another; then "together with," as in Genesis 32:12. בּתּי שׁן, ivory houses, houses the rooms of which are decorated by inlaid ivory. Ahab had a palace of this kind (1 Kings 22:39, compare Psalm 45:9). בּתּים רבּים, not the large houses, but many houses; for the description is rounded off with these words. Along with the palaces, many houses will also fall to the ground. The fulfilment took place when Samaria was taken by Shalmanezer (2 Kings 17:5-6).
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