Amos 5:13
Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time; for it is an evil time.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(13) Prudent . . . silence.—The dumb silence of the prudent is the awful curse which comes upon a people when they are given up to selfishness and rapacity. Thus the doom:—“Ephraim is joined to idols, let him alone.”

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.Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time - The "time" may be either the time of the obduracy of the wicked, or that of the common punishment. For a time may be called "evil," whether evil is done, or is suffered in it, as Jacob says, "Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been" Genesis 47:9. Of the first, he would perhaps say, that the oppressed poor would, if wise, be silent, not complaining or accusing, for, injustice having the mastery, complaint would only bring on them fresh sufferings. And again also he may mean that, on account of the incorrigibleness of the people, the wise and the prophets would be silent, because the more the people were rebuked, the more impatient and worse they became. So our Lord was silent before His judges, as had been foretold of Him, for since they would not hear, His speaking would only increase their condemnation. "If I tell you, ye will not believe; and if I also ask you, ye will not answer Me, nor let Me go" Luke 22:67-68. So God said by Solomon: "He that reproveth a scorner getteth himself shame, and he that rebuketh a wicked man getteth himself a blot" Proverbs 9:7. And our Lord bids, "Give not that which is holy unto dogs, and cast not your pearls before swine" Matthew 7:6. They hated and rejected those who rebuked them. Matthew 7:10. Since then rebuke profited not, the prophets should hold their peace. It is a fearful judgment, when God withholds His warnings. In times of punishment also the prudent keep silence. Intense affliction is "dumb and openeth not its month," owning the hand of God. It may be too, that Amos, like Hosea Hos 4:4, Hosea 4:17, expresses the uselessness of all reproof, in regard to the most of those whom be called to repentance, even while he continued earnestly to rebuke them. 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. Eph 5:16 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 (Mt 7:6), but will patiently wait for God's time of deliverance in silent submission (Ps 39:9).

Therefore, because that men are so universally impatient of hearing reproof, and yet their sins so much abound, and so much deserve reproof; since they will sooner turn against the speaker, than turn from the sin spoken against.

The prudent; the wise men; prophets, say some, but I rather think other private men are here meant, whose private capacity alloweth them to keep silence when others must speak.

Shall keep silence; be forced to it, say some, they shall be silenced; this is true, but rather here is a voluntary, chosen silence toward vile corrupters of law and justice, who will nothing mend though reproved; or a silence before God, owning his justice in punishing such sinners.

For it is an evil time; both for the sinfulness of it, which provoketh God to wrath, and for the sorrows, troubles, wars, and captivity of this people, by the Assyrians. Therefore the prudent shall keep silence at that time,.... Not the prophets of the Lord, whose business it was at all times to reprove, and not hold their peace, let the consequence be what it would; though the Targum calls them teachers; but private persons, whose wisdom it would be to say nothing; since reproof would do no good to these persons, and they would bring a great deal of hatred ill will, and trouble upon themselves as well as would hear the name of God blasphemed, which would be very afflictive to them: or the sense is, they would not speak to God on the behalf of these wicked men, knowing the decree was gone forth; nor say one murmuring word at it, believing it was in righteousness; and being struck also with the awfulness of God's righteous judgments:

for it is an evil time; in which sin abounded, and miseries and calamities on account of it.

Therefore {h} the prudent shall keep silence in that time; for it is an evil time.

(h) God will so plague them that they will not allow the godly to open their mouths once to admonish them of their faults.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
13. In a time such as that, the prudent man will keep silence; a complaint, or accusation, or attempt to redress the wrongs which he sees about him, will be perilous to him, if he be in a good position, and will only add to his sufferings, if he be poor.

shall keep] will keep, viz. if he is guided by his prudence.

in that time] not, at a future time, but at a time such as that which has been just described.

an evil time] a time when a man may well be anxious for his personal safety (cf. Psalm 49:5).Verse 13. - Even while he speaks, the prophet feels that his reproof is useless (comp. Jeremiah 7:27, etc.; Hosea 4:1, 17). In that time; at such a time as this, the man who acts wisely holds his peace, because it is a time of moral corruption and of personal danger. But the prophet cannot restrain his call (comp. Ezekiel 33:3, etc.). In Micah 2:3 the "evil time" is one of calamity. "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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