Amos 9:3
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 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. Amos 9:3The thought is still further expanded in Amos 9:2-6. Amos 9:2. "If they break through into hell, my hand will take them thence; and if they climb up to heaven, thence will I fetch them down. Amos 9:3. And if they hide themselves upon the top of Carmel, I will trace them, and fetch them thence; and if they conceal themselves from before mine eyes in the bottom of the sea, thence do I command the serpent, and it biteth them. Amos 9:4. And if they go into captivity before their enemies, I will command the sword thence, and it slayeth them; and I direct my eye upon them for evil, and not for good." The imperfects, with אם, are to be taken as futures. They do not assume what is impossible as merely hypothetical, in the sense of "if they should hide themselves;" but set forth what was no doubt in actual fact an impossible case, as though it were possible, in order to cut off every escape. For the cases mentioned in Amos 9:3 and Amos 9:4 might really occur. Hiding upon Carmel and going into captivity belong to the sphere of possibility and of actual occurrence. In order to individualize the thought, that escape from the punishing arm of the Almighty is impossible, the prophet opposes the most extreme spaces of the world to one another, starting from heaven and hell, as the loftiest height and deepest depth of the universe, in doing which he has in all probability Psalm 139:7-8 floating before his mind. He commences with the height, which a man cannot possibly climb, and the depth, to which he cannot descend, to show that escape is impossible. חתר, to break through, with ב, to make a hole into anything (Ezekiel 8:8; Ezekiel 12:5, Ezekiel 12:7). According to the Hebrew view, Sheol was deep in the interior of the earth. The head of Carmel is mentioned (see at Joshua 19:26). The reference is not to the many caves in this promontory, which afford shelter to fugitives; for they are not found upon the head of Carmel, but for the most part on the western side (see v. Raumer, Pal. p. 44). The emphasis lies rather upon the head, as a height overgrown with trees, which, even if not very high (about 1800 feet; see at 1 Kings 18:19), yet, in comparison with the sea over which it rises, might appear to be of a very considerable height; in addition to which, the situation of Carmel, on the extreme western border of the kingdom of Israel, might also be taken into consideration. "Whoever hides himself there, must assuredly know of no other place of security in the whole of the land besides. And if there is no longer any security there, there is nothing left but the sea." But even the deep sea-bottom will not shelter from the vengeance of God. God commands the serpent, or summons the serpent to bite him. Nâchâsh, here the water-serpent, called elsewhere livyāthān or tannı̄n (Isaiah 27:1), a sea-monster, which was popularly supposed to be extremely dangerous, but which cannot be more exactly defined. Even by going into captivity, they will not be protected from the sword. בּשּׁבי, not into captivity, but in statu captivitatis: even if they should be among those who were wandering into captivity, where men are generally sure of their lives (see Lamentations 1:5). For God has fixed His eye upon them, i.e., has taken them under His special superintendence (cf. Jeremiah 39:12); not, however, to shelter, to protect, and to bless, but לרעה, for evil, i.e., to punish them. "The people of the Lord remain, under all circumstances, the object of special attention. They are more richly blessed than the world, but they are also more severely punished" (Hengstenberg).
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