Amos 5:12
For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: they afflict the just, they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their right.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(12) I know.—Most of the commentators imply that the “I” is Jehovah, but it is more likely to be the prophet himself. The adjectives “manifold,” “mighty,” should be rendered as predicates, That manifold are your transgressions, and mighty your sins, ye afflicters of the just and takers of a bribe, and ye who bow down the poor in the gate. The idea involved in the word rendered “bribe” is the ransom which the poor and defenceless were obliged to pay to a tyrannical judge, in order to escape a harsh sentence. The “gate” is the place where judgment is passed by the chief men.

5:7-17 The same almighty power can, for repenting sinners, easily turn affliction and sorrow into prosperity and joy, and as easily turn the prosperity of daring sinners into utter darkness. Evil times will not bear plain dealing; that is, evil men will not. And these men were evil men indeed, when wise and good men thought it in vain even to speak to them. Those who will seek and love that which is good, may help to save the land from ruin. It behoves us to plead God's spiritual promises, to beseech him to create in us a clean heart, and to renew a right spirit within us. The Lord is ever ready to be gracious to the souls that seek him; and then piety and every duty will be attended to. But as for sinful Israel, God's judgments had often passed by them, now they shall pass through them.For I know - Literally, "I have known." They thought that God did not know, because He did not avenge; as the Psalmist says, "Thy judgments are far above out of his sight" Psalm 10:5. People who do not act with the thought of God, cease to know Him, and forget that He knows them. "Your manifold transgressions;" literally, "many are your transgressions and mighty your sins." Their deeds, they knew, were mighty, strong, vigorous, decided. God says, that their "sins" were so, not many and great only, but "mighty, strong" , "issuing not out of ignorance and infirmity, but out of proud strength" , "'strong' in the oppression of the poor and in provoking God," and bringing down His wrath. So Asaph says of the prosperous; "Pride encompasseth them, as a chain; they are corrupt, they speak oppression wickedly; they speak from on high" Psalm 73:6, Psalm 73:8.

They afflict the just - Literally, "afflicters of the just," that is, such as habitually afflicted him; whose habit and quality it was to afflict him. Our version mostly renders the word "enemies." Originally, it signifies "afflicting, persecuting" enemies. Yet it is used also of the enemies of God, perhaps such as persecute Him in His people, or in His Son when in the flesh. The unjust hate the just, as is said in the book of Wisdom; "The ungodly said, Therefore let us lie in wait for the righteous, because he is not for our turn, and is clean contrary to our doings: he upbraideth us with our offending the law. He profeseth to have the knowledge of God, and he calleth himself the child of the Lord. He was made to reprove our thoughts. He is grievous unto us even to behold, for his life is not as other people's, his ways are of another fashion" (Wisdom Psalm 2:1, Psalm 2:12-15). So when the Truth and Righteousness came into the world, the Scribes and Pharisees hated Him because He reproved them, "denied" Acts 3:14 and crucified "the Holy one and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto" them, haters and "enemies of the Just," and preferring to Him the unjust.

That take a bribe - Literally, "a ransom." It may be that, contrary to the law, which forbade, in these same words Numbers 35:22, "to take any ransom for the life of a murderer," they took some ransom to set free rich murderers, and so, (as we have seen for many years to be the effect of unjust acquittals,) blood was shed with impunity, and was shed the more, because it was disregarded. The word, however, is used in one place apparently of any bribe, through which a man connives at injustice 1 Samuel 12:3.

12. they afflict … they take—rather, "(ye) who afflict … take."

bribe—literally, a price with which one who has an unjust cause ransoms himself from your sentence (1Sa 12:3, Margin; Pr 6:35).

turn aside the poor in the gate—refuse them their right in the place of justice (Am 2:7; Isa 29:21).

For; wonder not at the threatened severity, as if it were too rigorous; it is but proportioned to your sins.

I, the Lord, whom you provoke, who have threatened you, know, clearly, fully, and in all the circumstances of them, what moves you to do so, what pretences of law you make: all your evasions are vain and foolish.

Your manifold transgressions; the increased number of your sins, and the greatness of them too, as the word importeth.

Your mighty sins; which mightily wrong and break the poor and needy.

They afflict, besiege, or with hostile minds watch against, and gladly take any occasion to wrong and grieve, the just; not absolutely and sinlessly just, but such as are comparatively just, or those whose cause is just, or those that live with regard to all the commands of God, and follow righteousness: it was the mighty sin of the corrupt rulers in Samaria and Israel at that day, that they were enemies to all righteousness.

They take a bribe; in civil causes bribes carried it; see Amos 2:6; here bribes set criminals free, a ransom. as the word in the Hebrew, buys off the punishment appointed by the law against murderers, adulterers, &c.

They turn aside the poor in the gate; the poor, who appear in their courts for justice, they turn them away, or delay to hear, or hear and judge unjustly, and so send them away wronged and crying.

From their right: these words fully express the prophet’s meaning, and are therefore well supplied in our version. For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins,.... Their sins were numerous, and of the first magnitude, attended with very heavy aggravations; and these with all their circumstances were well known to the omniscient God, and therefore he determined to punish them as he had threatened. Some of their transgressions are pointed out, as follow:

they afflict the just; who are so both in a moral and evangelic sense; not comparatively only, but really; and particularly whose cause was just, and yet were vexed and distressed by unjust judges, who gave the cause against them, made them pay all costs and charges, and severely mulcted them: they take a bribe; of those that were against the just, and gave the cause for them. The word signifies "a ransom" (f). The Targum it false mammon. Corrupt and unjust judges are here taxed:

and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their right; in the court of judicature, where they should have done them justice, such courts being usually held in the gates of cities; but instead of that they perverted their judgment, and did them wrong.

(f) "pretium redemptionis", Mercerus, Liveleus, Drusius, Lytron, Cocceius.

For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: they afflict the just, they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their right.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
12. For I know how manifold are your transgressions, and how mighty are your sins] Jehovah’s knowledge of what they imagine He is ignorant of (Psalm 73:11; Job 22:13), is the ground of the sentence expressed in Amos 5:11.

they afflict the just] Amos 2:6, Amos 3:9 f., &c.

they take a bribe] a ransom or price of a life, the proper meaning of the word (kôpher—not shôḥad); see e.g. Exodus 21:30, and especially Numbers 35:31, where the Israelites are strictly forbidden to “take a ransom (kôpher)” for the life of a murderer. But here the venal judges are represented as accepting such a ‘kôpher’; thus the rich murderer was acquitted, while the innocent, if unable to pay the price which the judge demanded, could get no redress for his wrongs.

turn aside the needy in the gate] The ‘gate,’ as Amos 5:10 : “turn aside” (sc. from their right, Isaiah 10:2), as Isaiah 29:21; Malachi 3:5.

12–13. Israel’s desperate moral condition, a justification of the sentence just pronounced upon it.Verse 12. - Your punishment is richly deserved, for "I know how many are your transgressions and how mighty are your sins," especially, as it follows, your sins of oppression and injustice. They afflict the just. The construction is continuous: "afflicters of the just." Hostes justi (Vulgate); καταπατοῦντες δίκαιον, "trampling down the just" (Septuagint); comp. Wisd. 2:12-15. They take a bribe. The translation of kopher as "bribe" is justified, perhaps, by 1 Samuel 12:3; but the word is elsewhere used for "ransom," redemption money paid to escape the consequences of crime (Proverbs 6:35), in direct opposition to the Law in Numbers 35:31, which forbade any ransom to be taken for the life of a murderer. The Septuagint has, λαμβάνοντες ἀλλάγματα "taking wares;" the Vulgate (with which the Syriac agrees), accipientes munus. Turn aside the poor in the gate from their right; or, bow down the needy in the gate, i.e. in the place of judgment (see note on ver. 10). Vulgate, pauperes deprimentes in porta; Septuagint, πένητας ἐν πύλαις ἐκκλίνοντες, "turning aside the poor in the gates." The crime specified is that of wresting judgment in the case of the poor, or not giving the poor man justice unless he could pay for it (comp. Exodus 23:6; Deuteronomy 16:19). "I will heal their apostasy, will love them freely: for my wrath has turned away from it. Hosea 14:5. I will be like dew for Israel: it shall blossom like the lily, and strike its roots like Lebanon. Hosea 14:6. Its shoots shall go forth, and its splendour shall become like the olive-tree, and its smell like Lebanon. Hosea 14:7. They that dwell in its shadow shall give life to corn again; and shall blossom like the vine: whose glory is like the wine of Lebanon. Hosea 14:8. Ephraim: What have I further with the idols? I hear, and look upon him: I, like a bursting cypress, in me is thy fruit found." The Lord promises first of all to heal their apostasy, i.e., all the injuries which have been inflicted by their apostasy from Him, and to love them with perfect spontaneity (nedâbhâh an adverbial accusative, promta animi voluntate), since His anger, which was kindled on account of its idolatry, had now turned away from it (mimmennū, i.e., from Israel). The reading mimmennı̄ (from me), which the Babylonian Codices have after the Masora, appears to have originated in a misunderstanding of Jeremiah 2:35. This love of the Lord will manifest itself in abundant blessing. Jehovah will be to Israel a refreshing, enlivening dew (cf. Isaiah 26:19), through which it will blossom splendidly, strike deep roots, and spread its shoots far and wide. "Like the lily:" the fragrant white lily, which is very common in Palestine, and grows without cultivation, and "which is unsurpassed in its fecundity, often producing fifty bulbs from a single root" (Pliny h. n. xxi. 5). "Strike roots like Lebanon," i.e., not merely the deeply rooted forest of Lebanon, but the mountain itself, as one of the "foundations of the earth" (Micah 6:2). The deeper the roots, the more the branches spread and cover themselves with splendid green foliage, like the evergreen and fruitful olive-tree (Jeremiah 11:16; Psalm 52:10). The smell is like Lebanon, which is rendered fragrant by its cedars and spices (Sol 4:11). The meaning of the several features in the picture has been well explained by Rosenmller thus: "The rooting indicates stability: the spreading of the branches, propagation and the multitude of inhabitants; the splendour of the olive, beauty and glory, and that constant and lasting; the fragrance, hilarity and loveliness." In Hosea 14:7 a somewhat different turn is given to the figure. The comparison of the growth and flourishing of Israel to the lily and to a tree, that strikes deep roots and spreads its green branches far and wide, passes imperceptibly into the idea that Israel is itself the tree beneath whose shade the members of the nation flourish with freshness and vigour. ישׁוּבוּ is to be connected adverbially with יהיּוּ. Those who sit beneath the shade of Israel, the tree that is bursting into leaf, will revive corn, i.e., cause it to return to life, or produce it for nourishment, satiety, and strengthening. Yea, they themselves will sprout like the vine, whose remembrance is, i.e., which has a renown, like the wine of Lebanon, which has been celebrated from time immemorial (cf. Plin. h. n. xiv. 7; Oedmann, Verbm. Sammlung aus der Naturkunde, ii. p. 193; and Rosenmller, Bibl. Althk. iv. 1, p. 217). The divine promise closes in Hosea 14:9 with an appeal to Israel to renounce idols altogether, and hold fast by the Lord alone as the source of its life. Ephraim is a vocative, and is followed immediately by what the Lord has to say to Ephraim, so that we may supply memento in thought. מה־לּי עוד לע, what have I yet to do with idols? (for this phrase, compare Jeremiah 2:18); that is to say, not "I have now to contend with thee on account of the idols (Schmieder), nor "do not place them by my side any more" (Ros.); but, "I will have nothing more to do with idols," which also implies that Ephraim is to have nothing more to do with them. To this there is appended a notice of what God has done and will do for Israel, to which greater prominence is given by the emphatic אני: I, I hearken (‛ânı̄thı̄ a prophetic perfect), and look upon him. שׁוּר, to look about for a person, to be anxious about him, or care for him, as in Job 24:15. The suffix refers to Ephraim. In the last clause, God compares Himself to a cypress becoming green, not only to denote the shelter which He will afford to the people, but as the true tree of life, on which the nation finds its fruits - a fruit which nourishes and invigorates the spiritual life of the nation. The salvation which this promise sets before the people when they shall return to the Lord, is indeed depicted, according to the circumstances and peculiar views prevailing under the Old Testament, as earthly growth and prosperity; but its real nature is such, that it will receive a spiritual fulfilment in those Israelites alone who are brought to belief in Jesus Christ.
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