Amos 7:8
And the LORD said to me, Amos, what see you? And I said, A plumb line. Then said the LORD, Behold, I will set a plumb line in the middle of my people Israel: I will not again pass by them any more:
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(8) Pass by them.—In the sense of sparing. There will come a time when prayer will be of no avail. All intercessions, however passionate or eager, will be too late. The door of mercy is shut.

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.Amos, what seest thou? - o: "He calls the prophet by name, as a familiar friend, known and approved by Him, as He said to Moses, "I know thee by name" Exodus 33:12, Exodus 33:17. For "the Lord knoweth them that are His. What seest thou?" 2 Timothy 2:19. God had twice heard the prophet. Two judgments upon His people He had mitigated, not upon their repentance, but on the single intercession of the prophet. After that, He willed to be no more entreated. And so He exhibits to Amos a symbol, whose meaning He does not explain until He had pronounced their doom. "The plumbline" was used in pulling down, as well as in building up. Whence Jeremiah says, "The Lord hath purposed to destroy the wall of the daughter of Zion; He hath stretched out a line; He hath not withdrawn His hand from destroying; therefore He made the rampart and wall to lament" Lamentations 2:8 : and Isaiah; "He shall stretch out upon it the line of wasteness" (as in Genesis 1:2) "and the stone of emptiness" Isaiah 34:11 (as in Genesis 1:2): and God said of Judah, "I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria and the plummet of the house of Ahab" 2 Kings 21:13.

Accordingly God explains the vision, "Behold I will set," that is, shortly, (literally, "am setting") "a plumbline in the midst of My people Israel." The wall, then, is not the emblem of Samaria or of any one city. It is the strength and defense of the whole people, whatever held it together, and held out the enemy. As in the vision to Belshazzar, the word "Tekel," He "weighed," was explained, "Thou art weighed in the balances and art found wanting" Daniel 5:27, so God here applies the plumbline, at once to convict and to destroy upon conviction. In this Judgment, as at the Last Day, God would not condemn, without having first made clear the justice of His condemnation. He sets it "in the midst of" His "people," showing that He would make trial of all, one by one, and condemn in proportion to the guilt of each. But the day of grace being past, the sentence was to be final. "I will not pass by them," literally, "I will not pass over" (that is, their transgressions) "to them (as in Amos 8:2) anymore," that is, I will no more forgive them.

8. plumb-line in … midst of … Israel—No longer are the symbols, as in the former two, stated generally; this one is expressly applied to Israel. God's long-suffering is worn out by Israel's perversity: so Amos ceases to intercede (compare Ge 18:33). The plummet line was used not only in building, but in destroying houses (2Ki 21:13; Isa 28:17; 34:11; La 2:8). It denotes that God's judgments are measured out by the most exact rules of justice. Here it is placed "in the midst" of Israel, that is, the judgment is not to be confined to an outer part of Israel, as by Tiglath-pileser; it is to reach the very center. This was fulfilled when Shalmaneser, after a three years' siege of Samaria, took it and carried away Israel captive finally to Assyria (2Ki 17:3, 5, 6, 23).

not … pass by … any more—not forgive them any more (Am 8:2; Pr 19:11; Mic 7:18).

The Lord, who did before show Amos the emblem in landscape or vision.

What seest thou? this God asketh not as if he were ignorant what Amos saw, or as if he would be informed whether he saw aright, but it is introductory to what follows.

A plumbline; or perpendicular, to which masons first build and frame walls of houses, and by which they do at any time measure them, whether they stand upright, or any way belly out and decline.

I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel; I will exactly measure my people Israel, the whole fabric of the ten kingdoms. I will take a particular view of all, and how far it is right, or how far it is out of order.

I will not again pass by them any more; I will no more forbear, but I will pull down all that is faulty, though I pull up the very foundations; and this is confirmed in what followeth. And the Lord said unto me, Amos, what seest thou?.... This question was put to him, the rather, since he was silent, and did not upon this vision, as the former, make any supplication to the Lord; as also, because this vision portended something of moment and importance, which he would have the prophet attend to:

and I said, a plumbline; the same word as before, and is differently rendered, as already observed. The Vulgate Latin version renders it, "a plasterer's" or "mason's trowel"; with which they lay their plaster and mortar on in building: the Septuagint, an adamant: and which, by Pliny (f), is called "anachites"; a word in sound near to this here used: the Targum renders it, "judgment": but Jarchi and Aben Ezra observe, that in the Arabic tongue it signifies lead or tin, as it does (g); and so a line with lead at the end of it;

then said the Lord, behold, I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel; take an exact account of their actions, and see how they agree or disagree with the rule of the word; and in the most strict and righteous manner deal with them for their sins and transgressions, "lay judgment to the line, and righteousness to the plummet", Isaiah 28:17;

I will not again pass by them any more; wink at their sins, and overlook their transgressions, by not correcting and punishing for them; or will not pardon them, but inflict punishment on them. So the Targum,

"behold, I will exercise judgment in the midst of my people Israel, and I will not add any more to pardon them.''

Though some understand it of God's making such an utter end of them, that he should no more "pass through them" (h), to destroy them, having done it at once, and thoroughly.

(f) Nat. Hist. l. 3. c. 4. (g) "plumbum, sive nigrum, sive album puriusque", Camusus; "plumbum et stannum", Ibn Maruph apud Golium, col. 176. Avicenna apud Castel. col. 161. Vid. Hottinger. Smegma Oriental. l. 1. c. 7. p. 122. (h) "non adjiciam ultra pertransire eum", Montanus; "non ultra per eum transibit", some in Mercerus.

And the LORD said unto me, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A plumbline. Then said the LORD, Behold, I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel: I will not again pass by them any more:
8. what seest thou?] The question is addressed to Amos for the purpose of attaching the explanation of the symbol to the answer, which he is naturally expected to give correctly (exactly Song of Solomon 8:2; Jeremiah 1:11; Jeremiah 1:13; Jeremiah 24:3).

I am setting a plummet, &c.] The plummet being a test of what is perpendicular, it is a standard by which either to build up, or to pull down: Jehovah is already, He says, setting (the verb in the Hebrew is a participle) a plummet in the very midst of His people (i.e. applying to it a crucial moral test); and whatever does not conform to its standard will be destroyed: the condition of the nation is such that He will not again pass over its offences, as He has done before. For the figure, comp. Isaiah 28:17, “And I will make judgement the measuring-line, and righteousness the weight (plummet); and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies,” &c.; Isaiah 34:11, “He shall stretch out upon it [Edom] the measuring-line of wasteness, and the stones (plummet) of emptiness”; 2 Kings 21:13, “And I will stretch over Jerusalem the measuring-line of Samaria, and the weight (plummet) of the house of Ahab,” i.e. they will be devoted to destruction.

pass by them] pardon it (the people): lit. pass over (viz. its transgressions, see Micah 7:18, Proverbs 19:11) for it: Song of Solomon 8:2. This time no opportunity is given to Amos to intercede: before he can say anything, the final doom, I will not again any more pardon it, is pronounced irrevocably.Verse 8. - Amos, what seest thou? A question asked to give occasion for the explanation of the symbol, as in Jeremiah 1:11, 13; Jeremiah 24:3. I will set a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel. As it was built by rule and measure, so it should be destroyed. The line was used not only for building, but also for pulling down (see 2 Kings 21:13; Isaiah 34:11; Lamentations 2:8). And this should be done "in the midst" of the people, that all might be tried individually, and that all might acknowledge the justice of the sentence, which now denounced complete ruin. Pass by; so as to spare, or forgive (Amos 8:2; Proverbs 19:11; Micah 7:18). The judgment is irremediable, and the prophet intercedes no more. The final conquest by Shalmaneser is here typified. But there is still time to avert the completion of the judgment by sincere repentance and mourning; for God is merciful, and ready to forgive the penitent. Joel 2:12. "Yet even now, is the saying of Jehovah, turn ye to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning. Joel 2:13. And rend your heart and not your garments, and turn back to Jehovah your God; for He is gracious and merciful, long-suffering, and great in kindness, and suffers Himself to repent of the evil. Joel 2:14. Who knoweth He turns and repents, and leaves behind Him blessing, meat-offering and drink-offering for Jehovah your God?" As the plague of locusts was intended to bring the people to reflect upon their conduct towards the Lord, so was the announcement of the great day of judgment and all its terrors made with no other object than to produce repentance and conversion, and thereby promote the good of the people of God. Joel therefore appends to the threatening of judgment a summons to sincere conversion to the Lord; and this he does by first of all addressing the summons to the people as a saying of Jehovah (v. 12), and then explaining this word of God in the most emphatic manner (vv. 13, 14). The Lord God requires conversion to Himself with all the heart (cf. 1 Samuel 7:3, and Deuteronomy 6:5; and for שׂוּב עד, Hosea 14:2), associated with deep-rooted penitence on account of sin, which is to be outwardly manifested in fasting and mourning. But lest the people should content themselves with the outward signs of mourning, he proceeds in Joel 2:13 with the warning admonition, "Rend your heart, and not your garments." Rending the heart signifies contrition of heart (cf. Psalm 51:19; Ezekiel 36:26). He then assigns the motive for this demand, by pointing to the mercy and grace of God, in the words of Exodus 34:6, with which the Lord made known to Moses His inmost nature, except that in the place of ואמת, which we find in this passage, he adds, on the ground of the facts recorded in Ezekiel 32:14 and 2 Samuel 24:16, ונחם על הרעה. On the strength of these facts he hopes, even in the present instance, for forgiveness on the part of God, and the removal of the judgment. "Who knoweth?" equivalent to "perhaps;" not because "too confident a hope would have had in it something offensive to Jehovah" (Hitzig), but "lest perchance they might either despair on account of the magnitude of their crimes, or the greatness of the divine clemency might make them careless" (Jerome).

(Note: "He speaks after the manner of a terrified conscience, which is lifted up again with difficulty after a season of affliction, and begins to aspire after hope and the mercy of God. Moreover, the expression 'who knoweth' is a Hebrew phrase, which does not indicate doubt, but rather affirmation, coupled with desire, as if we were to say, 'And yet surely God will turn again.'" - Luther, Enarrat. in Joelem, Opp., Jena 1703, p. iii.)

ישׁוּב, to turn, sc. from coming to judgment. נהם as in Joel 2:13. השׁאיר אחריו, to leave behind Him, sc. when He returns to His throne in heaven (Hosea 5:15). Berâkhâh, a blessing, viz., harvest-produce for a meat-offering and drink-offering, which had been destroyed by the locusts (Joel 1:9, Joel 1:13).

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