Amos 5:7
Ye who turn judgment to wormwood, and leave off righteousness in the earth,
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(7) Is placed after Amos 5:9 by Ewald, since Amos 5:7-8 stand in the Heb. without any connecting-link. The holy thing “judgment” is perverted into the bitter thing “wormwood,” that which is execrated.

Leave off.—Or rather, cast down righteousness to the earth, i.e., by false judgments and unjust decrees. Pusey sees here the analogue of the humiliation of the Holy One by wicked hands, when He was crowned with thorns, and fell beneath His cross.

Amos 5:7-9. Ye who turn judgment to wormwood — Or into hemlock, as the word here used is translated, Amos 6:12. Ye judges and rulers that pervert the law that was designed to protect innocence, and under colour of it exercise the greatest oppression. True or just judgment is sweet or pleasing; corrupt judgment, mere bitterness. And leave off righteousness — That is, leave off to practise it, or make it to cease in your courts of judicature. Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion — Concerning these constellations see notes on Job 9:9; and Job 38:31. These and the other constellations were commonly thought to have great influence upon the seasons; and therefore their rising and setting used to be particularly taken notice of by husbandmen and shepherds; whose employments lying abroad, made them more observant of the appearances of the heavenly bodies. So this was a dispensation of providence, which it was very suitable for one of Amos’s profession to mention. “But in Arabia and the neighbouring countries, to this present day, not only the shepherds, but the men in general, the women and children, know the names of the stars. Sanctius assures us, that the shepherds in Spain know perfectly well the stars of Ursa Major, Orion, the Pleiades, &c., and that they generally measure the time of night by the course of these stars.” — Dodd. And turneth the shadow of death into the morning — The greatest adversity into as great prosperity; and maketh the day dark with night — Changes prosperity into adversity: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them upon the earth — Who commandeth the seas and the rivers to overflow the earth in great inundations; or rather, commands the vapours to ascend from the sea, turns them into rain, and then pours it from the clouds, to render the earth fruitful. That strengtheneth the spoiled against the strong — Who giveth strength to him that hath been conquered and spoiled, and enables him to subdue his conquerors, and become master even of the strongest places. This was very properly mentioned here as one act of God’s great power, because it implied, that the deplorable state of the Israelitish affairs might be retrieved if they sought to him.

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.Ye who turn - Those whom he calls to seek God, were people filled with all injustice, who turned the sweetness of justice into the bitterness of wormwood . Moses had used "gall" and "wormwood" as a proverb; "lest there be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood; the Lord will not spare him, but then the anger of the Lord and His jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him" Deuteronomy 29:18, Deuteronomy 29:20. The word of Amos would remind them of the word of Moses.

And leave off righteousness in the earth - Better, "and set righteousness to rest on the ground" . They dethroned righteousness, the representative and vice-gerent of God, and made it rest on the ground. The "little horn," Daniel says, should "cast truth to the ground" Daniel 8:12. These seem to have blended outrage with insult, as when "the Lord our Righteousness" Jeremiah 23:6 took our flesh, "they put on Him" the "scarlet robe, and the crown of thorns" upon His Head, and bowed the knee before Him, and mocked Him," and then "crucified Him." They "deposed" her, "set her down," it may be, with a mock make-believe deference, as people now-a-days, in civil terms, depose God, ignoring Him and His right over them. They set her on the ground and so left her, the image of God. This they did, not in one way only, but in all the ways in which they could. He does not limit it to the "righteousness" shown in doing justice. It includes all transactions between man and man, in which right enters, all buying and selling, all equity, all giving to another his due. All the bands of society were dissolved, and righteousness was placed on the ground, to be trampled on by all in all things.

7. turn judgment to wormwood—that is, pervert it to most bitter wrong. As justice is sweet, so injustice is bitter to the injured. "Wormwood" is from a Hebrew root, to "execrate," on account of its noxious and bitter qualities.

leave on righteousness in … earth—Maurer translates, "cast righteousness to the ground," as in Isa 28:2; Da 8:12.

Ye; rulers and judges.

Judgment; the righteous sentence of the law, the equity of it, which is sweet and pleasing to just men, and safe for all.

Wormwood; proverbially understood, bitterness, grief, injustice, and oppression.

Leave off righteousness; make it to cease in your courts of judicature, and tread it under foot.

In the earth; or among men, in the land: the latter part of this verse explains the former.

Ye who turn judgment to wormwood,.... This seems to be spoken to kings and judges, as Aben Ezra and Kimchi observe; in whose hands is the administration of justice, and who often pervert it, as these did here addressed and complained of; that which was the most useful and salubrious, and so the most desirable to the commonwealth, namely, just judgment, was changed into the reverse, what was as bitter and as disagreeable as wormwood; or "hemlock", as it might be rendered, and as it is in Amos 6:12; even injustice:

and leave off righteousness in the earth; leave off doing it among men: or rather, "leave it on the earth" (c); who cast it down to the ground, trampled upon it, and there left it; which is expressive not only of their neglect, but of their contempt of it; see Daniel 8:12.

(c) "in terram prosterunt", Piscator; "justitiam in terram reliquerunt, i.e. humi prosternitis et deseritis", Mercerus; "collocantes humi", Junius & Tremellius.

Ye who turn {d} judgment to wormwood, and leave off righteousness in the earth,

(d) Instead of judgment and fairness they execute cruelty and oppression.

7. Jehovah demands righteousness: the prophet, with passion and indignation, declares abruptly how far Israel is from righteousness, and then proceeds to announce again the doom which it may in consequence confidently expect. As before (Amos 2:6-8, Amos 4:1), Israel’s crying sin is neglect of civil justice, and oppression of the poor: it is the aristocracy who arouse the moral indignation of Amos, as afterwards, in Judah, they aroused that of Isaiah, Micah, and Jeremiah.

turn judgment to wormwood] Instead of being something wholesome and grateful, it is bitter and cruel to those who have to receive it. For wormwood (always as a figure for something bitter), cf. Amos 6:12; Jeremiah 9:15; Jeremiah 23:15; Lamentations 3:15; Lamentations 3:19; Proverbs 5:4; Revelation 8:11. The plant in question (Heb. la‘ǎnâh; Aq. [Prov. and Jer.] ἀψίνθιον, whence Vulg. [everywhere] apsinthium: LXX. paraphrases,—in Amos 6:12 by πικρία) is a species of the genus Artemisium, of which several varieties are found in Palestine (Tristram, N.H.[157]. p. 493; Fauna and Flora of Palestine, p. 331).

[157] .H.B … H. B. Tristram, Natural History of the Bible (1868).

and lay righteousness down on the earth] instead of maintaining it erect, in its place (cf. Amos 5:15), they (Pusey) ‘dethrone’ it, and lay it (Isaiah 28:2) ignominiously on the ground: we should rather say, ‘trample it under foot’ (Hitz.). ‘Righteousness,’ as the context shews, means here civil justice (as 2 Samuel 8:15, Jeremiah 22:3, and frequently). The virtue is almost personified (cf. Isaiah 59:14).

Verse 7. - The prophet brings out the con-trust between Israel's moral corruption and God's omnipotence. Ye who turn judgment to wormwood. As Jerome puts it," Converterunt dulcedinem judicii in absinthii amaritudinem," "They turned the sweetness of judgment into the bitterness of absinth" (comp. Amos 6:12). Who make judgment the occasion of the bitterest injustice. There is no syntactical connection between this verse and the last, but virtually we may append it to "seek the Lord." It would sound in people's ears as a reminiscence of Deuteronomy 29:18, 20. The LXX. reads, ὁ ποιῶν εἰς ὕψος κρίμα. "that executeth judgment in the height," referring the sentence to the Lord, or else taking laanah, "wormwood," in a metaphorical sense, as elsewhere they translate it by ἀνάγκη πικρία, ὀδύνη (Deuteronomy 29:18; Proverbs 5:4; Jeremiah 9:15; Jeremiah 23:15). The name "wormwood" is applied to all the plants of the genus that grow in Palestine the taste of which was proverbially bitter. And leave off righteousness in the earth; rather, cast down righteousness to the earth (as Isaiah 28:2), despise it and trample it underfoot (comp. Daniel 8:12). This is Israel's practice; and yet God, as the next verse shows, is almighty, and has power to punish. Righteousness includes all transactions between man and man. The LXX. (still referring the subject to the Lord), καὶ δικαιοσύνην εἰς γῆν ἔθηκεν, "and he established righteousness on earth." Amos 5:7The 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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