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 nought.
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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. Amos 5:5The short, cursory explanation of the reason for the lamentation opened here, is followed in Amos 5:4. by the more elaborate proof, that Israel has deserved to be destroyed, because it has done the very opposite of what God demands of His people. God requires that they should seek Him, and forsake idolatry, in order to live (Amos 5:4-6); but Israel on the contrary, turns right into unrighteousness, without fearing the almighty God and His judgment (Amos 5:7-9). This unrighteousness God must punish (Amos 5:10-12). Amos 5:4. "For thus saith Jehovah to the house of Israel, Seek ye me, and live. Amos 5:5. And seek not Bethel, and come not to Gilgal, and go not over to Beersheba: for Gilgal repays it with captivity, and Bethel comes to nought. Amos 5:6. Seek Jehovah, and live; that He fall not upon the house of Joseph like fire, and it devour, and there be none to quench it for Bethel." The kı̄ in Amos 5:4 is co-ordinate to that in Amos 5:3, "Seek me, and live," for "Seek me, so shall ye live." For this meaning of two imperatives, following directly the one upon the other, see Gesenius, 130, 2, and Ewald, 347, b. חיה, not merely to remain alive, not to perish, but to obtain possession of true life. God can only be sought, however, in His revelation, or in the manner in which He wishes to be sought and worshipped. This explains the antithesis, "Seek not Bethel," etc. In addition to Bethel and Gilgal (see at Amos 4:4), Beersheba, which was in the southern part of Judah, is also mentioned here, being the place where Abraham had called upon the Lord (Genesis 21:33), and where the Lord had appeared to Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 26:24 and Genesis 46:1; see also at Genesis 21:31). These sacred reminiscences from the olden time had caused Beersheba to be made into a place of idolatrous worship, to which the Israelites went on pilgrimage beyond the border of their own kingdom (עבר). But visiting these idolatrous places of worship did no good, for the places themselves would be given up to destruction. Gilgal would wander into captivity (an expression used here on account of the similarity in the ring of גּלגּל and גּלה יגלה). Bethel would become 'âven, that is to say, not "an idol" here, but "nothingness," though there is an allusion to the change of Beth-el (God's house) into Beth-'âven (an idol-house; see at Hosea 4:15). The Judaean Beersheba is passed over in the threat, because the primary intention of Amos is simply to predict the destruction of the kingdom of the ten tribes. After this warning the prophet repeats the exhortation to seek Jehovah, and adds this threatening, "that Jehovah come not like fire upon the house of Joseph" (tsâlach, generally construed with ‛al or 'el, cf. Judges 14:19; Judges 15:14; 1 Samuel 10:6; here with an accusative, to fall upon a person), "and it (the fire) devour, without there being any to extinguish it for Bethel." Bethel, as the chief place of worship in Israel, is mentioned here for the kingdom itself, which is called the "house of Joseph," from Joseph the father of Ephraim, the most powerful tribe in that kingdom.

To add force to this warning, Amos (Amos 5:7-9) exhibits the moral corruption of the Israelites, in contrast with the omnipotence of Jehovah as it manifests itself in terrible judgments. Amos 5:7. "They that change right into wormwood, and bring righteousness down to the earth. Amos 5:8. He that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into morning, and darkeneth day to night: that calleth to the waters of the sea, and poureth them over the surface of the earth; Jehovah is His name. Amos 5:9. Who causeth desolation to flash upon the strong, and desolation cometh upon the fortress." The sentences in Amos 5:7 and Amos 5:8 are written without any connecting link. The participle in Amos 5:7 cannot be taken as an address, for it is carried on in the third person (hinnı̄chū), not in the second. And hahōphekhı̄m (who turn) cannot be in apposition to Beth-el, since the latter refers not to the inhabitants, but to the houses. As Amos is generally fond of a participial construction (cf. Amos 2:7; Amos 4:13), so in a spirited address he likes to utter the thoughts one after another without any logical link of connection. As a matter of fact, hahōphekhı̄m is connected with bēth-yōsēph (the house of Joseph), "Seek the Lord, ye of the house of Joseph, who turn right into wrong;" but instead of this connection, he proceeds with a simple description, They are turning," etc. La‛ănâh, wormwood, a bitter plant, is a figurative term denoting bitter wrong (cf. Amos 6:12), the actions of men being regarded, according to Deuteronomy 29:17, as the fruits of their state of mind. Laying righteousness on the ground (hinnı̄ăch from nūăch) answers to our "trampling under feet." Hitzig has correctly explained the train of thought in Amos 5:7 and Amos 5:8 : "They do this, whereas Jehovah is the Almighty, and can bring destruction suddenly upon them." To show this antithesis, the article which takes the place of the relative is omitted from the participles ‛ōsēh and hōphēkh. The description of the divine omnipotence commences with the creation of the brightly shining stars; then follow manifestations of this omnipotence, which are repeated in the government of the world. Kı̄mâh, lit., the crowd, is the group of seven stars, the constellation of the Pleiades. Kesı̄l, the gate, according to the ancient versions the giant, is the constellation of Orion. The two are mentioned together in Job 9:9 and Job 38:31 (see Delitzsch on the latter). And He also turns the darkest night into morning, and darkens the day into night again. These words refer to the regular interchange of day and night; for tsalmâveth, the shadow of death, i.e., thick darkness, never denotes the regularly recurring gloominess of night, but the appalling gloom of night (Job 24:17), more especially of the night of death (Job 3:5; Job 10:21-22; Job 38:17; Psalm 44:20), the unlighted depth of the heart of the earth (Job 28:3), the darkness of the prison (Psalm 107:10, Psalm 107:14), also of wickedness (Job 12:22; Job 34:22), of sufferings (Job 16:16; Jeremiah 13:16; Psalm 23:4), and of spiritual misery (Isaiah 9:1). Consequently the words point to the judicial rule of the Almighty in the world. As the Almighty turns the darkness of death into light, and the deepest misery into prosperity and health,

(Note: Theodoret has given a correct explanation, though he does not quite exhaust the force of the words: "It is easy for Him to turn even the greatest dangers into happiness; for by the shadow of death he means great dangers. And it is also easy to bring calamity upon those who are in prosperity.")

so He darkens the bright day of prosperity into the dark night of adversity, and calls to the waters of the sea to pour themselves over the earth like the flood, and to destroy the ungodly. The idea that by the waters of the sea, which pour themselves out at the call of God over the surface of the earth, we are to understand the moisture which rises from the sea and then falls upon the earth as rain, no more answers to the words themselves, than the idea expressed by Hitzig, that they refer to the water of the rivers and brooks, which flow out of the sea as well as into it (Ecclesiastes 1:7). The words suggest the thought of terrible inundations of the earth by the swelling of the sea, and the allusion to the judgment of the flood can hardly be overlooked. This judicial act of the Almighty, no strong man and no fortress can defy. With the swiftness of lightning He causes desolation to smite the strong man. Bâlag, lit., micare, used in the Arabic to denote the lighting up of the rays of the dawn, hiphil to cause to light up, is applied here to motion with the swiftness of lightning; it is also employed in a purely metaphorical sense for the lighting up of the countenance (Psalm 39:14; Job 9:27; Job 10:20). In Amos 5:9 the address is continued in a descriptive form; יבוא has not a causative meaning. The two clauses of this verse point to the fate which awaits the Israelites who trust in their strength and their fortifications (Amos 6:13). And yet they persist in unrighteousness.

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