Amos 7:4
Thus has the Lord GOD showed to me: and, behold, the Lord GOD called to contend by fire, and it devoured the great deep, and did eat up a part.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) Fire.—The poetical description of a yet more terrible calamity. God announces His intention of judging, i.e., punishing by fire (the word in E.V., “contend,” is to be understood in this sense). For “a portion” read the portion. The image is that of a prairie fire, that should eat up the later grass spared by the locusts. The consuming of the “great deep” is a strong hyperbole, and can scarcely refer to the “heathen world,” as Keil maintains. The meaning rather appears to be that not only the solitary remnant of pasture, but the deepest springs of moisture, will be scorched up in the blaze. The same word for “deep” (tehôm) is used in Genesis 1:2, Gen_7:11, Gen_8:2. (Comp. the Assyrian tihamtu.)

Amos 7:4-6. The Lord God called to contend by fire, &c. — This represented a sorer judgment than the former, and, in the opinion of some expositors, denoted the invasion of Tiglath-pileser, who carried a great part of Israel away captive, 2 Kings 15:29, and so was properly represented by a raging fire, which consumed the sea by turning it into vapours, and then devoured a great part of the land. Then said I, O Lord God, cease, I beseech thee, &c. — Here the prophet observes, that upon this judgment being represented to him in his vision, he made supplication to God as he had done before, and that God hearkened to him in this instance also, and promised that this judgment should not be executed, or should have a stop put to it.7:1-9 God bears long, but he will not bear always with a provoking people. The remembrance of the mercies we formerly received, like the produce of the earth of the former growth, should make us submissive to the will of God, when we meet with disappointments in the latter growth. The Lord has many ways of humbling a sinful nation. Whatever trouble we are under, we should be most earnest with God for the forgiveness of sin. Sin will soon make a great people small. What will become of Israel, if the hand that should raise him be stretched out against him? See the power of prayer. See what a blessing praying people are to a land. See how ready, how swift God is to show mercy; how he waits to be gracious. Israel was a wall, a strong wall, which God himself reared as a defence to his sanctuary. The Lord now seems to stand upon this wall. He measures it; it appears to be a bowing, bulging wall. Thus God would bring the people of Israel to the trial, would discover their wickedness; and the time will come, when those who have been spared often, shall be spared no longer. But the Lord still calls Israel his people. The repeated prayer and success of the prophet should lead us to seek the Saviour.God called to contend by fire - that is, He "called" His people to maintain their cause with Him "by fire," as He says, "I will plead" in judgment "with him" (Gog) "with" (that is," by") pestilence and blood" Ezekiel 38:22; and, "by fire and by His sword will the Lord plead with all flesh" Isaiah 66:16; and, "The Lord standeth up to plead and standeth to judge the people" Isaiah 3:13. Man, by rebellion, challenges God's Omnipotence. He will have none of Him; he will find his own happiness for himself, apart from God and in defiance of Him and His laws; he plumes himself on his success, and accounts his strength or wealth or prosperity the test of the wisdom of his policy. God, sooner or later, accepts the challenge. He brings things to the issue, which man had chosen. He "enters into judgment" (Isaiah 3:14, etc.) with him. If man escapes with impunity, then he had chosen well, in rejecting God and choosing his own ways. If not, what folly and misery was his short-sighted choice; short-lived in its gain; its loss, eternal! "Fire" stands as the symbol and summary of God's most terrible judgments. It spares nothing, leaves nothing, not even the outward form of what it destroys. Here it is plainly a symbol, since it destroys "the sea" also, which shall be destroyed only by the fire of the Day of Judgment, when "the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up" 2 Peter 3:10. The sea is called the "great deep," only in the most solemn language, as the history of the creation or the flood, the Psalms and poetical books. Here it is used, in order to mark the extent of the desolation represented in the vision.

And did eat up a part - Rather literally, "The portion," that is, probably the definite "portion" foreappointed by God to captivity and desolation. This probably our English Version meant by "a part." For although God calls Himself "the Portion" of Israel Deuteronomy 32:9; Jeremiah 10:16; Zechariah 2:12, and of those who are His (Psalm 16:5; Psalm 73:26, etc; Jeremiah 10:16), and reciprocally He calls the people "the Lord's portion Jeremiah 12:10, and the land, the portion Micah 2:4 of God's people; yet the land is nowhere called absolutely "the portion," nor was the country of the ten tribes specially "the portion," given by God. Rather God exhibits in vision to the prophet, the ocean burned up, and "the portion" of Israel, upon which His judgments were first to fall. To this Amos points, as "the portion." God knew "the portion," which Tiglath-Pileser would destroy, and when he came and had carried captive the east and north of Israel, the pious in Israel would recognize the second, more desolating scourge, foretold by Amos; they would own that it was at the prayer of the prophet that it was stayed and went no further, and would await what remained.

4. called to contend—that is, with Israel judicially (Job 9:3; Isa 66:16; Eze 38:22). He ordered to come at His call the infliction of punishment by "fire" on Israel, that is, drought (compare Am 4:6-11), [Maurer]. Rather, war (Nu 21:28), namely, Tiglath-pileser [Grotius].

devoured the … deep—that is, a great part of Israel, whom he carried away. Waters are the symbol for many people (Re 17:15).

did eat up a part—namely, all the land (compare Am 4:7) of Israel east of Jordan (1Ch 5:26; Isa 9:1). This was a worse judgment than the previous one: the locusts ate up the grass: the fire not only affects the surface of the ground, but burns up the very roots and reaches even to the deep.

Thus hath the Lord God showed, in vision or hieroglyphic: see Amos 7:1.

And, behold: see Amos 7:1.

Called to contend by fire; declared he would judge as by fire: literally, say some, God would from heaven by fire punish. Others say metaphorically, by drought which should scorch up all fruits of the earth, and dry up fountains and rivers. Or else by very sore, wasting, and irresistible judgments, that like fire should consume all, hereby denoting the Assyrian rage.

It devoured; eat up, i.e. visionally, or in the emblem.

The great deep; not literally, but, as the other, Amos 7:2, in hieroglyphic; so it appeared to Amos.

And did eat up a part of the land too; it seemed to seize on the earth: now this in vision awakens the prophet, as before, to pray earnestly. Thus hath the Lord showed unto me,.... Another vision after this manner:

and, behold, the Lord God called to contend by fire; gave out that he would have a controversy with his people Israel, and proclaimed the time when he would try the cause with them, and that by fire: or he called his family, as Jarchi; that is, his angels, as Kimchi, to cause fire to descend upon Israel, as upon Sodom and Gomorrah; so other Rabbins Kimchi mentions: or, as he interprets it, the scorching heat of the sun, like fire that restrained the rain, dried up the plants, and lessened the waters of the river, and so brought on a general drought, and in consequence famine: or rather a foreign army, involving them in war, burning their cities and towns; see Amos 1:4;

and it devoured the great deep; it seemed, as if it did; as the fire from heaven, in Elijah's time, licked up the water in the trench, 1 Kings 18:38; so this, coming at God's command, seemed to dry up the whole ocean; by which may be meant the multitude of people, nations, and kingdoms, subdued by the Assyrians; see Revelation 17:15;

and did eat up a part; a part of a field, as Jarchi and Aben Ezra; of the king's field, Amos 7:1; as Kimchi; showing, as he observes, that the reigning king was a bad king, and that this was for his sin: or rather a part of the land of Israel; and so refers, as is generally thought, to Tiglathpileser's invasion of the land, who carried captive a part of it, 2 Kings 15:29.

Thus hath the Lord GOD shewed unto me: and, behold, the Lord GOD called to contend by fire, {d} and it devoured the great deep, and did eat up a part.

(d) Meaning, that God's indignation was inflamed against the stubbornness of this people.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4–6. The second vision. The devouring fire.

called to contend by fire] Jehovah arraigns His people: and fire is the agent which he summons against them (cf. to dispute, or litigate, with fire, Isaiah 66:16). For the idea of Jehovah’s contending (in a forensic sense) with His people, comp. Isaiah 3:13; Jeremiah 2:9; Hosea 4:1; Micah 6:2 (where the corresponding substantive is rendered controversy); and for calleth, comp. on Amos 7:8.

and it devoured the great deep, and would have devoured the portion] The imagery is suggested, no doubt, by the conflagrations which, in the East, break out in field and forest during the dry season (Joel 1:19-20), and spread with alarming rapidity (comp. Psalm 83:14, Isaiah 9:18; and see Thomson, The Land and the Book, ii. 291–293). So fierce was the flame thus kindled that it even dried up the ‘great deep’ (Genesis 7:11), the subterranean waters upon which the Hebrews imagined the earth to rest (Genesis 1:7; Exodus 20:4; Psalm 24:2), and whence they supposed all its springs and fountains to have their supply; when these were exhausted, “it seemed as if the solid framework of the land, described with very apt pathos as the Portion (i.e. the portion [Micah 2:3, &c.] assigned by God to His people), would be the next to disappear” (G. A. Smith, p. 111). The judgement is thus a more severe one than that of the locusts.Verses 4-6. - § 2. The second vision devouring fire, represents a more severe judgment than the preceding one, involving greater consequences, but still one which was again modified by the prayers of the righteous prophet. Verse 4. - Called to contend by fire; Septuaguint, ἐκάλεσε τὴν δίκην ἐν πυρί, "called for judgment by fire;" Vulgate, vocabat judicium ad ignem. God called the people to try their cause with him by sending fire as a punishment among them (comp. Isaiah 66:16; Ezekiel 38:22); and in the vision the fire is represented as so vehement that it devoured the great deep, drank up the very ocean itself (Genesis 7:11; Isaiah 51:10); or the subterranean fountains and springs, as Genesis 49:25. And did eat up a part; τὴν μερίδα κυρίου (Septuagint). This version takes eth-hacheleq as the "inheritance" or "portion" of the Lord, i.e. the land of Israel (Jeremiah 12:10); but Canaan is nowhere called absolutely "the portion;" nor were the ten tribes specially so designated. Rather, the portion (not a part) is that part of the land and people which was marked out for judgment. The particular calamity alluded to is the second invasion of Tigiath-Pileser II, when he conquered Gilead and the northern part of the kingdom, and carried some of the people captive to Assyria (2 Kings 15:29). In Joel 2:7-10 the comparison of the army of locusts to a well-equipped army is carried out still further; and, in the first place, by a description of the irresistible force of its advance. Joel 2:7. "They run like heroes, like warriors they climb the wall; every one goes on its way, and they do not change their paths. Joel 2:8. And they do not press one another, they go every one in his path; and they fall headlong through weapons, and do not cut themselves in pieces. Joel 2:9. They run about in the city, they run upon the wall, they climb into the houses, they come through the windows like a thief." This description applies for the most part word for word to the advance of the locusts, as Jerome (in loc.) and Theodoret (on Joel 2:8) attest from their own observation.

(Note: Jerome says: "We saw (al. heard) this lately in the province (Palestine). For when the swarms of locusts come and fill the whole atmosphere between the earth and sky, they fly in such order, according to the appointment of the commanding God, that they preserve an exact shape, just like the squares drawn upon a tesselated pavement, not diverging on either side by, so to speak, so much as a finger's breadth. 'And,' as he (the prophet) interprets the metaphor, 'through the windows they will fall, and not be destroyed.' For there is no road impassable to locusts; they penetrate into fields, and crops, and trees, and cities, and houses, and even the recesses of the bed-chambers." And Theodoret observes on Joel 2:8: "For you may see the grasshopper like a hostile army ascending the walls, and advancing along the roads, and not suffering any difficulty to disperse them, but steadily moving forward, as if according to some concerted plan." And again, on Joel 2:9 : "And this we have frequently seen done, not merely by hostile armies, but also by locusts, which not only when flying, but by creeping along the walls, pass through the windows into the houses themselves.")

They run like heroes - namely, to the assault: רוּץ referring to an attack, as in Job 15:26 and Psalm 18:30, "as their nimbleness has already been noticed in Joel 2:4" (Hitzig). Their climbing the walls also points to an assault. Their irresistible march to the object of their attack is the next point described. No one comes in another's way; they do not twist (עבט) their path, i.e., do not diverge either to the right hand or to the left, so as to hinder one another. Even the force of arms cannot stop their advance. שׁלח is not a missile, telum, missile (Ges. and others), but a weapon extended or held in front (Hitzig); and the word is not only applied to a sword (2 Chronicles 23:10; Nehemiah 4:11), but to weapons of defence (2 Chronicles 32:5). בּצע, not "to wound themselves" ( equals פּצע), but "to cut in pieces," used here intransitively, to cut themselves in pieces. This does no doubt transcend the nature even of the locust; but it may be explained on the ground that they are represented as an invincible army of God.

(Note: The notion that these words refer to attempts to drive away the locusts by force of arms, in support of which Hitzig appeals to Liv. hist. xlii. 10, Plinii hist. n. xi. 29, and Hasselquist, Reise nach Pal. p. 225, is altogether inappropriate. All that Livy does is to speak of ingenti agmine hominum ad colligendas eas (locustas) coacto; and Pliny merely says, Necare et in Syria militari imperio coguntur. And although Hasselquist says, Both in Asia and Europe they sometimes take the field against the locusts with all the equipments of war," this statement is decidedly false so far as Europe is concerned. In Bessarabia (according to the accounts of eye-witnesses) they are merely in the habit of scaring away the swarms of locusts that come in clouds, by making a great noise with drums, kettles, hay-forks, and other noisy instruments, for the purpose of preventing them from settling on the ground, and so driving them further. Hass's account of a pasha of Tripoli having sent 4000 soldiers against the insects only a few years ago, is far too indefinite to prove that they were driven away by the force of arms.)

On the other hand, the words of Joel 2:9 apply, so far as the first half is concerned, both to the locusts and to an army (cf. Isaiah 33:4; Nahum 2:5); whereas the second half applies only to the former, of which Theodoret relates in the passage quoted just now, that he has frequently seen this occur (compare also Exodus 10:6).

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