Amos 9:3
And though they hide themselves in the top of Carmel, I will search and take them out there; and though they be hid from my sight in the bottom of the sea, there will I command the serpent, and he shall bite them:
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(3) Serpent.—On this expression, i.e., the “waterserpent,” comp. Isaiah 27:1.

9:1-10 The prophet, in vision, saw the Lord standing upon the idolatrous altar at Bethel. Wherever sinners flee from God's justice, it will overtake them. Those whom God brings to heaven by his grace, shall never be cast down; but those who seek to climb thither by vain confidence in themselves, will be cast down and filled with shame. That which makes escape impossible and ruin sure, is, that God will set his eyes upon them for evil, not for good. Wretched must those be on whom the Lord looks for evil, and not for good. The Lord would scatter the Jews, and visit them with calamities, as the corn is shaken in a sieve; but he would save some from among them. The astonishing preservation of the Jews as a distinct people, seems here foretold. If professors make themselves like the world, God will level them with the world. The sinners who thus flatter themselves, shall find that their profession will not protect them.He had contrasted heaven and hell, as places impossible for man to reach; as I David says, "If I ascend into heaven, Thou art there: If l make my bed in hell, behold Thee" Psalm 139:8. Now, of places in a manner accessible, he contrasts Mount Carmel, which rises abruptly out of the sea, with depths of that ocean which it overhangs. Carmel was in two ways a hiding place.

1) Through its caves (some say 1,000 , some 2,000) with which it is perforated, whose entrance sometimes scarcely admits a single man; so close to each other, that a pursuer would not discern into which the fugitive had vanished; so serpentine within, that, "10 steps apart," says a traveler , "we could hear each others' voices, but could not see each other." : "Carmel is perforated by a hundredfold greater or lesser clefts. Even in the garb of loveliness and richness, the majestic Mount, by its clefts, caves, and rocky battlements, excites in the wanderer who sees them for the first time, a feeling of mingled wonder and fear. A whole army of enemies, as of nature's terrors, could hide themselves in these rock-clefts."

2) Its summit, about 1800 feet above the sea , "is covered with pines and oaks, and lower down with olive and laurel trees" . These forests furnished hiding places to robberhordes at the time of our Lord. In those caves, Elijah probably at times was hidden from the persecution of Ahab and Jezebel. It seems to be spoken of as his abode 1 Kings 18:19, as also one resort of Elishas 2 Kings 2:25; 2 Kings 4:25. Carmel, as the western extremity of the land, projecting into the sea, was the last place which a fugitive would reach. If he found no safety there, there was none in his whole land. Nor was there by sea;

And though they be hid - (rather, "hide themselves") from My sight in the bottom of the sea, thence will I command the serpent The sea too has its deadly serpents. Their classes are few; the individuals in those classes are much more numerous than those of the land-serpents . Their shoals have furnished to sailors tokens of approaching land . Their chief abode, as traced in modern times, is between the Tropics .

The ancients knew of them perhaps in the Persian gulf or perhaps the Red Sea . All are "highly venomous" and "very ferocious." : "The virulence of their venom is equal to that of the "most" pernicious land-serpents." All things, with their will or without it through animal instinct, as the serpent, or their savage passions, as the Assyrian, fulfill the will of God. As, at His command, the fish whom He had prepared, swallowed Jonah, for his preservation, so, at His "command, the serpent" should come forth from the recesses of the sea to the sinner's greater suffering.

3. Carmel—where the forests, and, on the west side, the caves, furnished hiding-places (Am 1:2; Jud 6:2; 1Sa 13:6).

the sea—the Mediterranean, which flows at the foot of Mount Carmel; forming a strong antithesis to it.

command the serpent—the sea-serpent, a term used for any great water monster (Isa 27:1). The symbol of cruel and oppressive kings (Ps 74:13, 14).

Though they hide themselves in the top of Carmel; one high woody mountain, shelter and hiding-place for wild beasts, by a figure put for all the rest; if they think to be safe where wild beasts find a refuge, they are deceived,

I will search and take them out thence; I will, saith God, hunt them out, and take them.

Though they be hid from my sight in the bottom of the sea: this is an irony like brutish atheists, they think to hide themselves in the bottom of the sea.

Thence will I command the serpent, crocodile or shark some sea monster, and he shall bite them; devour them. Miserable Israel, to whom nor sea, nor mountains, nor heaven, nor hell will afford a hiding-place! And though they hide themselves in the top of Carmel,.... One of the highest mountains in the land of Israel; in the woods upon it, and caves in it:

I will search and take them out from thence: by directing their enemies where to find them: so the Targum,

"if they think to be hid in the tops of the towers of castles, thither will I command the searchers, and they shall search them:''

and though they be hid from my sight in the bottom of the sea; get into ships, going by sea to distant parts; or make their escape to isles upon the sea afar off, where they may think themselves safe:

thence will I command the serpent, and he shall bite them; the dragon that is in the sea, Isaiah 27:1; the great whale in the sea, or the leviathan, so Aben Ezra, Kimchi, and Ben Melech; and is that kind of whale which is called the "Zygaena", as Bochart (w) thinks; and which he, from various writers, describes as very monstrous, horrible, and terrible, having five rows of teeth, and very numerous; and which not only devours other large fishes, but men swimming it meets with; and, having such teeth, with great propriety may be said to bite. It appears from hence that there are sea serpents, as well as land ones, to which the allusion is. Erich Pantoppidan, the present bishop of Bergen (x), speaks of a "see ormen", or sea snake, in the northern seas, which he describes as very monstrous and very terrible to seafaring men, being of seven or eight folds, each fold a fathom distant; nay, of the length of a cable, a hundred fathom, or six hundred English feet; yea, of one as thick as a pipe of wine, with twenty five folds. Some such terrible creature is here respected, though figuratively understood, and designs some crafty, powerful, and cruel enemy. The Targum paraphrases it, though hid

"in the isles of the sea, thither will I command the people strong like serpents, and they shall kill them;''

see Psalm 139:9.

(w) Hierozoic. par. 2. l. 5. c. 13. p. 747. (x) Natural History of Norway, par. 2. p. 198, 199, 207.

And though they hide themselves in the top of Carmel, I will search and take them out thence; and though they be hid from my sight in the bottom of the sea, thence will I command the {c} serpent, and he shall bite them:

(c) He shows that God will declare himself as an enemy to them in all places, and that his elements and all his creatures will be enemies to destroy them.

3. Two other examples of remote or inaccessible hiding-places, similarly contrasted; Carmel, rising abruptly out of the sea, and the depths of the ocean which it overhangs. Carmel was in two ways a hiding-place: (1) As usual in limestone formations, it abounds in caves—said by some to be more than 2000 in number—often of great length, with narrow entrances, and extremely tortuous. These caves are “so close to each other that a pursuer would not discern into which the fugitive had vanished; so serpentine within, that ‘ten steps apart,’ says a traveler[198], ‘we could hear each others’ voices, but could not see each other’ ” (Pusey). (2) The summit of Carmel, about 1800 ft. above the sea, is thickly wooded (see the descriptions quoted on ch. Amos 1:2; and comp. Micah 7:14); in the first cent. a.d., according to Strabo (xvi. 2. 28), its forests were the retreat of robbers. Carmel, projecting into the sea, would be the last hiding-place in the land: if a fugitive found no safety there, he could seek it next only in the sea. But even the sea, as the next clause says, should afford no safety for these Israelites.

[198] Schulz, Leitung des Höchsten, v. 186; Paulus, Reisen, vii. 43.

the serpent] In warm tropical regions, highly venomous marine serpents (Hydropidae) are found in the sea (see particulars in Cantor, Zoological Transactions, ii. pp. 303 ff., referred to by Dr Pusey). They are not, however, known in the Mediterranean; and the reference is more probably to an imaginary monster, supposed by the Hebrews to have its home at the bottom of the ocean, and to be at the disposal of the Almighty.Verse 3. - The top of Carmel. Among the woods and thickets. There are no eaves on the summit of Carmel. "Amos tolls us that in his day the top of it was a place to hide in; nor has it changed its character in this respect ... I would not have been prompted to place 'the top of Carmel' third in such a series of hiding places, yet I can fully appreciate the comparison from my own experience. Ascending from the south, we followed a wild, narrow wady overhung by trees, bushes, and tangled creepers, through which my guide thought we could get up to the top; but it became absolutely impracticable, and we were obliged to find our way back again. And even after we reached the summit, it was so rough and broken in some places, and the thorn bushes so thickset and sharp, that our clothes were torn and our hands and faces severely lacerated; nor could I see my guide at times ten steps ahead of me. From such biblical intimations, we may believe that Carmel was not very thickly inhabited" (Thomson, 'The Land and the Book,' Central Palestine, p. 237, etc.). Other writers speak of the occurrence of caves and deep valleys in the Carmel range. In the bottom of the sea. Both this and heaven (ver. 2) are impracticable hiding places, and are used poetically to show the absolute impossibility of escape. Serpent (nachash, elsewhere called leviathan and tannin, Isaiah 27:1), some kind of seamonster supposed to be venomous. Dr. Pusey mentions that certain poisonous hydrophidae are found in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. and may probably infest the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. In Joel 3:2 and Joel 3:3 Joel is speaking not of events belonging to his own time, or to the most recent past, but of that dispersion of the whole of the ancient covenant nation among the heathen, which was only completely effected on the conquest of Palestine and destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, and which continues to this day; though we cannot agree with Hengstenberg, that this furnishes an argument in favour of the allegorical interpretation of the army of locusts in ch. 1 and 2. For since Moses had already foretold that Israel would one day be driven out among the heathen (Leviticus 26:33.; Deuteronomy 28:36.), Joel might assume that this judgment was a truth well known in Israel, even though he had not expressed it in his threatening of punishment in ch. 1 and 2. Joe 3:3 depicts the ignominious treatment of Israel in connection with this catastrophe. The prisoners of war are distributed by lot among the conquerors, and disposed of by them to slave-dealers at most ridiculous prices, - a boy for a harlot, a girl for a drink of wine. Even in Joel's time, many Israelites may no doubt have been scattered about in distant heathen lands (cf. v. 5); but the heathen nations had not yet cast lots upon the nation as a whole, to dispose of the inhabitants as slaves, and divide the land among themselves. This was not done till the time of the Romans.

(Note: After the conquest and destruction of Jerusalem, Titus disposed of the prisoners, whose number reached 97,000 in the course of the war, in the following manner: Those under seventeen years of age were publicly sold; of the remainder, some were executed immediately, some sent away to work in the Egyptian mines, some kept for the public shows to fight with wild beasts in all the chief cities of Rome; and only the tallest and most handsome for the triumphal procession in Rome (compare Josephus, de bell. Jud. vi. 9, 2, 3). And the Jews who were taken prisoners in the Jewish war in the time of Hadrian, are said to have been sold in the slave-market at Hebron at so low a price, that four Jews were disposed of for a measure of barley. Even in the contests of the Ptolemaeans and Seleucidae for the possession of Palestine, thousands of Jews were sold as prisoners of war. Thus, for example, the Syrian commander Nicanor, in his expedition against the Jews in the Maccabaean war, sold by anticipation, in the commercial towns along the Mediterranean, such Jews as should be made prisoners, at the rate of ninety prisoners for one talent; whereupon 1000 slave-dealers accompanied the Syrian army, and carried fetters with them for the prisoners (1 Maccabees 3:41; 2 Maccabees 8:11, 25; Jos. Ant. xii. 7, 3).)

But, as many of the earlier commentators have clearly seen, we must not stop even at this. The people and inheritance of Jehovah are not merely the Old Testament Israel as such, but the church of the Lord of both the old and new covenants, upon which the Spirit of God is poured out; and the judgment which Jehovah will hold upon the nations, on account of the injuries inflicted upon His people, is the last general judgment upon the nations, which will embrace not merely the heathen Romans and other heathen nations by whom the Jews have been oppressed, but all the enemies of the people of God, both within and without the earthly limits of the church of the Lord, including even carnally-minded Jews, Mohammedans, and nominal Christians, who are heathens in heart.

(Note: As J. Marck correctly observes, after mentioning the neighbouring nations that were hostile to Judah, and then the Syrians and Romans: "We might proceed in the same way to all the enemies of the Christian church, from its very cradle to the end of time, such as carnal Jews, Gentile Romans, cruel Mohammedans, impious Papists, and any others who either have borne or yet will bear the punishment of their iniquity, according to the rule and measure of the restitution of the church, down to those enemies who shall yet remain at the coming of Christ, and be overthrown at the complete and final redemption of His church.")

Before depicting the final judgment upon the hostile nations of the world, Joel notices in Joel 3:4-8 the hostility which the nations round about Judah had manifested towards it in his own day, and foretels to these a righteous retribution for the crimes they had committed against the covenant nation. Joel 3:4. "And ye also, what would ye with me, O Tyre and Sidon, and all ye coasts of Philistia? will ye repay a doing to me, or do anything to me? Quickly, hastily will I turn back your doing upon your head. Joel 3:5. That ye have taken my silver and my gold, and have brought my best jewels into your temples. Joel 3:6. And the sons of Judah and the sons of Jerusalem ye have sold to the sons of Javan, to remove them far from their border. Joel 3:7. Behold, I waken them from the place whither ye have sold them, and turn back your doing upon your head. Joel 3:8. And sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of Javan, and they sell them to the Sabaeans, to a people far off; for Jehovah has spoken it." By vegam the Philistines and Phoenicians are added to the gōyim already mentioned, as being no less culpable than they; not, however, in the sense of, "and also if one would inquire more thoroughly into the fact" (Ewald), or, "and even so far as ye are concerned, who, in the place of the friendship and help which ye were bound to render as neighbours, have oppressed my people" (Rosenmller), for such additions as these are foreign to the context; but rather in this sense, "and yea also ... do not imagine that ye can do wrong with impunity, as though he had a right so to do." מה־אתּם לי does not mean, "What have I to do with you?" for this would be expressed differently (compare Joshua 22:24; Judges 11:12); but, "What would ye with me?" The question is unfinished, because of its emotional character, and is resumed and completed immediately afterwards in a disjunctive form (Hitzig). Tyre and Sidon, the two chief cities of the Phoenicians (see at Joshua 19:29 and Joshua 11:8), represent all the Phoenicians. כל גּלילות פל, "all the circles or districts of the Philistines," are the five small princedoms of Philistia (see at Joshua 13:2). גּמוּל, the doing, or inflicting (sc., of evil), from gâmal, to accomplish, to do (see at Isaiah 3:9). The disjunctive question, "Will ye perhaps repay to me a deed, i.e., a wrong, that I have done to you, or of your own accord attempt anything against me?" has a negative meaning: "Ye have neither cause to avenge yourselves upon me, i.e., upon my people Israel, nor any occasion to do it harm. But if repayment is the thing in hand, I will, and that very speedily (qal mehērâh, see Isaiah 5:26), bring back your doing upon your own head" (cf. Psalm 7:17). To explain what is here said, an account is given in Joel 3:5, Joel 3:6 of what they have done to the Lord and His people, - namely, taken away their gold and silver, and brought their costly treasures into their palaces or temples. These words are not to be restricted to the plundering of the temple and its treasury, but embrace the plundering of palaces and of the houses of the rich, which always followed the conquest of towns (cf. 1 Kings 14:26; 2 Kings 14:14). היכליכם also are not temples only, but palaces as well (cf. Isaiah 13:22; Amos 8:3; Proverbs 30:28). Joel had no doubt the plundering of Judah and Jerusalem by the Philistines and Arabians in the time of Jehoram in his mind (see 2 Chronicles 21:17). The share of the Phoenicians in this crime was confined to the fact, that they had purchased from the Philistines the Judaeans who had been taken prisoners, by them, and sold them again as salves to the sons of Javan, i.e., to the Ionians or Greeks of Asia Minor.

(Note: On the widespread slave-trade of the Phoenicians, see Movers, Phnizier, ii. 3, p. 70ff.)

The clause, "that ye might remove them far from their border," whence there would be no possibility of their returning to their native land, serves to bring out the magnitude of the crime. This would be repaid to them according to the true lex talionis (Joel 3:7, Joel 3:8). The Lord would raise up the members of His own nation from the place to which they had been sold, i.e., would bring them back again into their own land, and deliver up the Philistines and Phoenicians into the power of the Judaeans (mâkhar beyâd as in Judges 2:14; Judges 3:8, etc.), who would then sell their prisoners as slaves to the remote people of the Sabaeans, a celebrated trading people in Arabia Felix (see at 1 Kings 10:1). This threat would certainly be fulfilled, for Jehovah had spoken it (cf. Isaiah 1:20). This occurred partly on the defeat of the Philistines by Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:6-7) and Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:8), where Philistian prisoners of war were certainly sold as slaves; but principally after the captivity, when Alexander the Great and his successors set many of the Jewish prisoners of war in their lands at liberty (compare the promise of King Demetrius to Jonathan, "I will send away in freedom such of the Judaeans as have been made prisoners, and reduced to slavery in our land," Josephus, Ant. xiii. 2, 3), and portions of the Philistian and Phoenician lands were for a time under Jewish sway; when Jonathan besieged Ashkelon and Gaza (1 Maccabees 10:86; 11:60); when King Alexander (Balas) ceded Ekron and the district of Judah (1 Maccabees 10:89); when the Jewish king Alexander Jannaeaus conquered Gaza, and destroyed it (Josephus, Ant. xiii. 13, 3; bell. Jud. i. 4, 2); and when, subsequent to the cession of Tyre, which had been conquered by Alexander the Great, to the Seleucidae, Antiochus the younger appointed Simon commander-in-chief from the Ladder of Tyre to the border of Egypt (1 Maccabees 1:59).

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