Amos 5:5
But seek not Bethel, nor enter into Gilgal, and pass not to Beersheba: for Gilgal shall surely go into captivity, and Bethel shall come to nothing.
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(5) Seek.—The same word is used for the searching, or inquiring at idol shrines, which is here fervently condemned. Respecting Beersheba, see Note on Amos 8:14. On Grilgal there is a play of words in the original, which it is impossible to express accurately in translation.

Bethel shall come to nought.—Render (with Luther) Bethel (house of God) shall become Bethaven (house of vanity). The form Bethaven here is supported by the LXX., and appears to confirm the Masoretic reading of Hosea 4:15; Hosea 10:5; and Amos 1:5, where other reasons incline critics to read On for Aven (see the passages).

5:1-6 The convincing, awakening word must be heard and heeded, as well as words of comfort and peace; for whether we hear or forbear, the word of God shall take effect. The Lord still proclaims mercy to men, but they often expect deliverance from such self-invented forms as make their condemnation sure. While they refuse to come to Christ and to seek mercy in and by him, that they may live, the fire of Divine wrath breaks forth upon them. Men may make an idol of the world, but will find it cannot protect.But (and) seek not Bethel - Israel pretended to seek God in Bethel. Amos sets the two seeking, as incompatible. The god, worshiped at Bethel, was not the One God. To seek God there was to lose Him. "Seek not God," he would say, "and a phantom, which will lead from God."

And pass not to Beersheba - Jeroboam I pretended that it was too much for Israel to go up to Jerusalem. And Yet Israel thought it not too much to go to the extremest point of Judah toward Idumaea , perhaps, four times as far south of Jerusalem, as Jerusalem lay from Bethel. For Beersheba is thought to have lain some thirty miles south of Hebron , which is twenty-two miles south of Jerusalem ; while Bethel is but twelve to the north. So much pains will people take in self-willed service, and yet not see that it takes away the excuse for neglecting the true. At Beersheba, Abraham "called upon the name of the Lord, the everlasting God" Genesis 21:33. There God revealed Himself to Isaac and Jacob Genesis 26:23-24; Genesis 46:1. There, because He had so revealed Himself, Judah made a place of idolatry, which Israel, seeking nought besides from Judah, sought. Beersheba was still a town or large village in the time of Jerome. Now all is swept away, except "some foundations of ruins," spread over 34 of a mile, "with scarcely one stone upon another" . The wells alone remain , with the ancient names.

Gilgal shall surely go into captivity - The verbal allusions in the prophets are sometimes artificial; sometimes, they develop the meaning of the word itself, as when Zephaniah says, "Ekron (probably the "firm-rooting") "shall be uprooted" Zephaniah 2:4; sometimes, as here, the words are connected, although not the same. In all cases, the likeness of sound was calculated to fix them in men's memories. It would be so, if one with authority could say, "Paris perira" , "Paris shall perish" or "London is undone." Still more would the words, Hag-gilgal galo yigleh, because the name Gilgal still retained its first meaning, "the great rolling , and the word joined with it had a kindred meaning. Originally it probably means, "swept clear away." God first "rolled away the reproaeh of Egypt" Joshua 5:9 from His people there. Then, when it made itself like the pagan, it should itself be rolled clear away Jeremiah 51:25. Gilgal was originally in Benjamin, but Israel had probably annexed it to itself, as it had Bethel and Jericho 1 Kings 16:34, both of which had been assigned by Joshua to Benjamin Joshua 18:21-22.

And Bethel shall come to nought - Hosea had called "Bethel, God's house," by the name of "Bethaven Hosea 4:15; Hosea 10:5, Vanity-house." Amos, in allusion to this probably, drops the first half of the name, and says that it shall not merely be "house of vanity," but "Aven, vanity" itself. "By sin the soul, which was the house or temple of God, becomes the temple of vanity and of devils."

5. seek not Beth-el—that is, the calves at Beth-el.

Gilgal—(See on [1139]Am 4:4).

Beer-sheba—in Judah on the southern frontier towards Edom. Once "the well of the oath" by Jehovah, ratifying Abraham's covenant with Abimelech, and the scene of his calling on "the Lord, the everlasting God" (Ge 21:31, 33), now a stronghold of idolatry (Am 8:14).

Gilgal shall surely go into captivity—a play on similar sounds in the Hebrew, Gilgal, galoh, yigleh: "Gilgal (the place of rolling) shall rolling be rolled away."

Beth-el shall come to naught—Beth-el (that is, the "house of God"), called because of its vain idols Beth-aven (that is, "the house of vanity," or "naught," Ho 4:15; 10:5, 8), shall indeed "come to naught."

But seek not Beth-el; consult not, worship not, depend not on the idol calf at Beth-el; or seek not God at Beth-el, but at Jerusalem, where he will be found; cast off idolatry, return to the true God and to his instituted worship, so shall ye live.

Nor enter into Gilgal; a city of great idolatry, a place where God will not be sought nor found by you: see Hosea 4:15 9:15 12:11, where it is more fully explained.

Pass not to Beer-sheba; though God of old did appear there to Isaac, Genesis 26:24, though Abraham dwelt there, Genesis 21:31-33, and Jacob sacrificed there with acceptance, Genesis 46:1-3, yet now God appointeth Jerusalem and the temple the only places of his solemn worship, and of your seeking him.

Gilgal; the inhabitants of Gilgal, for the place could not go into captivity; it is a metonymy, the place put for the people.

Shall surely go into captivity; Shalmaneser and his Assyrians shall certainly carry them away captives.

Beth-el, both city and people,

shall come to nought; shall be vanity and disappointment to all that trust to the idols of it. But seek not Bethel,.... Do not go to Bethel, the place where one of Jeroboam's calves was set up and worshipped, to consult the oracle, idols, and priests there; or to perform religious worship, which will be your ruin, if not prevented by another course of living:

nor enter into Gilgal; another place of idolatry, where idols were set up and worshipped See Gill on Amos 4:4;

and pass not to Beersheba; a place in the further part of the land of Israel; it formerly belonged to Judah, but was now in the hands of the ten tribes, and where idolatrous worship was practised; see Amos 8:14; it having been a place where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, had dwelt, and worshipped the true God:

for Gilgal shall surely go into captivity; that is, the inhabitants of it; they will not be able with their idols and idol worship to save themselves, and therefore go not thither. There is an elegant play on words here (b), as there is also in the next words:

and Bethel shall come to nought; which also was called Bethaven, the house of vanity, or of an idol which is nothing in the world; and therefore, because of the idolatry in it, should come to nothing, be utterly destroyed, and the inhabitants of it. So the Targum,

"they, that are in Gilgal, and worship calves in Bethel.''

(b) .

But seek not Bethel, nor enter into {c} Gilgal, and pass not to Beersheba: for Gilgal shall surely go into captivity, and Bethel shall come to nought.

(c) In those places they worshipped new idols, which before served for the true honour of God: therefore he says that these will not save them.

5. But seek me not, as I am sought by the worshippers at Beth-el and your other sanctuaries: their end will be only destruction.

seek not Beth-el] Here ‘seek’ is used in the first of the two senses indicated on Amos 5:4 : comp. (in connexion with a place) Deuteronomy 12:5. On ‘Beth-el’ and ‘Gilgal,’ see on Amos 3:14 and Amos 4:4.

and cross not over to Beer-sheba] i.e. pass not over the frontiers to it. Beer-sheba was situated in the extreme south of Judah (comp. the expression “from Dan even to Beersheba”), some 50 miles S.S.W. of Jerusalem, and 30 miles S.W. of Hebron; hence it lay far beyond the territory of Israel, and a visit to it must have been the occasion of a special pilgrimage. Beer-sheba was an ancient sanctuary, hallowed by associations of the patriarchs (Genesis 21:31-33; Genesis 22:19; Genesis 26:23-25; Genesis 26:31-33; Genesis 28:10; Genesis 46:1): it is mentioned as an important place in 1 Samuel 8:2; and in Amos’ time it was a popular resort for pilgrims from N. Israel. No doubt Beer-sheba, situated as it was on the edge of the desert, owed its importance to its wells, two of which, yielding a copious supply of pure and clear water, still remain.

for Gilgal shall surely go into captivity] into exile (on Amos 1:5). In the Hebrew there is a play on the name Gilgal (gâlôh yigleh): it suggested to the ear (though not, of course, etymologically) the word gâlâh, to ‘go into exile,’ and the prophet declares, so to say, that its fate will fulfil the omen of its name, its end will be exile. There is another play of the same kind in Hosea 12:11 Gilead and Gilgal will become gallim, ruined heaps, on the furrows of the field: see also, with other place-names, Isaiah 10:30; Isaiah 15:9; Jeremiah 6:1; Micah 1:10-11; Micah 1:13-14; Zephaniah 2:4.

and Beth-el shall come to nought] shall come to trouble. Here also there is a play on the name, though one of a different kind. “Beth-el,” ‘House of God,’ as a seat of unspiritual worship, was called in mockery (see Hosea 4:15; Hosea 5:8; Hosea 10:5; cf. Hosea 10:8) “Beth-aven,” ‘House of trouble (or idols’); and Amos, playing on the double application of the word, says that it shall become a trouble,—no source of strength or support to its frequenters, but a cause of trouble; it will be ruined itself, and will bring them to ruin likewise. The play may have been suggested by the fact that there was actually, a little E. of Bethel, a place called Beth-aven (Joshua 7:2; Joshua 18:12; 1 Samuel 13:5; 1 Samuel 14:23). (The rend. ‘come to nought’ is too strong, though ‘come to vanity’ would be permissible (see Isaiah 41:29, Zechariah 10:2): âven seems to have included the ideas of what is wearisome, troubling, disappointing, valueless; and hence it may denote, according to the context, trouble, worthless conduct (iniquity), a worthless state (vanity, ruin), and also worthless things, i.e. idols, 1 Samuel 15:23, Isaiah 66:3; cf. the passages of Hosea just quoted; also Amos 1:5 with the note.)Verse 5. - Bethel... Gilgal. The scenes of idolatrous worship, where was no true seeking of God (see note on Amos 4:4). Beersheba. A spot about fifty miles southsouthwest of Jerusalem, the site of which has never been lost, and is marked to this day by seven much-frequented wells. As being one of the holy places celebrated in the history of the patriarchs (Genesis 21:31, 33; Genesis 26:23, etc.; Genesis 46:1), it had become a shrine of idolatrous worship, to which the Israelites resorted, though it lay far out of their territory (comp. Amos 8:14). Gilgal shall surely go into captivity. There is in the Hebrew a play on the words here and in the following clause (Hag-gilgal galoh yigleh), which commentators have paralleled with such expressions as, Capua capietur, Cremona cremabitur, Paris perira, "London is undone." Or, taking Joshua's explanation of the name, we may say, "Roll-town shall be rolled away." Bethel shall some to nought. As Bethel, "House of God," had become Bethaven, "House of vanity" (see Hosea 4:15), as being the temple of an idol (comp. 1 Corinthians 8:4), so the prophet, with allusion to this, says that "Bethel shall become aven" - vanity, nothingness, itself. No mention is made of the fate of Beersheba, because Amos has in view only the ten tribes, and the destiny of places beyond their territory is not here the object of his prediction; and indeed, when Israel was ruined, Beersheba escaped unharmed. "The guilt of Ephraim is bound together: his sin is preserved. Hosea 13:13. The pains of a travailing woman come upon him: he is an unwise son; that he does not place himself at the time in the breaking forth of children." Hosea 13:12 is a special application of Deuteronomy 32:34 to the ten tribes. Tsârūr, bound up in a bundle, like a thing which you wish to take great care of (compare Job 14:17; 1 Samuel 25:29). The same thing is applied in tsâphūn, hidden, carefully preserved, so as not to be lost (Job 21:19). "All their sins are preserved for punishment" (Chald.). Therefore will pains overtake Ephraim like a woman in labour. The pains of childbirth are not merely a figurative representation of violent agony, but of the sufferings and calamities connected with the refining judgments of God, by which new life was to be born, and a complete transformation of all things effected (cf. Micah 4:9-10; Isaiah 13:8; Isaiah 26:17; Matthew 24:8). He cannot be spared these pains, for he is a foolish son (cf. Deuteronomy 32:6, Deuteronomy 32:28.). But in what respect? This is explained in the words כּי עת וגו, "for at the time," or as עת cannot stand for לעת, more correctly "when it is time," he does not place himself in, i.e., does not enter, the opening of the womb. Mishbar bânı̄m is to be explained as in 2 Kings 19:3 and Isaiah 37:3; and עמד, c. ב as in Ezekiel 22:30. If the child does not come to the opening at the right time, the birth is retarded, and the life of both mother and child endangered. The mother and child are one person here. And this explains the transition from the pains of the mother to the behaviour of the child at the time of birth. Ephraim is an unwise son, inasmuch as even under the chastening judgment he still delays his conversion, and will not let himself be new-born, like a child, that at the time of the labour-pains will not enter the opening of the womb and so come to the birth.
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