Amos 9:6
It is he that builds his stories in the heaven, and has founded his troop in the earth; he that calls for the waters of the sea, and pours them out on the face of the earth: The LORD is his name.
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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 that buildeth His stories - The word commonly means "steps," nor is there any reason to alter it. We read of "the third heavens 2 Corinthians 12:2, the heavens of heavens Deuteronomy 10:14; 1 Kings 8:27; Psalm 148:4; that is, heavens to which this heaven is as earth. They are different ways of expressing the vast unseen space which God has created, divided, as we know, through the distance of the fixed stars, into countless portions, of which the lower, or further removed, are but as "steps" to the presence of the Great King, where, "above all heavens" Ephesians 4:10, Christ sitteth at the Right Hand of God. It comes to the same, if we suppose the word to mean "upper chambers." The metaphor would still signify heavens above our heavens.

And hath founded His troop - (literally, band in the earth Probably, "founded His arch upon the earth," that is, His visible heaven, which seems, like an arch, to span the earth. The whole then describes" all things visible and invisible;" all of this our solar system, and all beyond it, the many gradations to the Throne of God. : "He daily "buildeth His stories in the heavens," when He raiseth up His saints from things below to heavenly places, presiding over them, ascending in them. In devout wayfarers too, whose "conversation is in heaven Philippians 3:20, He ascendeth, sublimely and mercifully indwelling their hearts. In those who have the fruition of Himself in those heavens, He ascendeth by the glory of beatitude and the loftiest contemplation, as He walketh in those who walk, and resteth in those who rest in Him."

To this description of His power, Amos, as before Amos 5:8, adds that signal instance of its exercise on the ungodly, the flood, the pattern and type of judgments which no sinner escapes. God then hath the power to do this. Why should He not?

6. stories—literally, "ascents," that is, upper chambers, to which the ascent is by steps [Maurer]; evidently referring to the words in Ps 104:3, 13. Grotius explains it, God's royal throne, expressed in language drawn from Solomon's throne, to which the ascent was by steps (compare 1Ki 10:18, 19).

founded his troop—namely, all animate creatures, which are God's troop, or host (Ge 2:1), doing His will (Ps 103:20, 21; Joe 2:11). Maurer translates, "His vault," that is, the vaulted sky, which seems to rest on the earth supported by the horizon.

It is he that buildeth his stories in the heaven; he that threatens and will execute his just severities on you is that mighty, glorious King, whose palace inconceivably surpasseth all the royal palaces of the mightiest monarchs on earth; his chambers, as Psalm 104:3, are in the heavens: he by a word of his mouth prepared and garnished those rooms of state, where is glory that ravisheth the mighty angels; how easily can he demolish and ruin your cells, and with the breath of his nostrils, by one command, blow away and scatter your little dust heaps, which you call cities, fortresses, and impregnable munitions!

And hath founded his troop in the earth; he laid the foundations of this lower world, and can as easily shake or overturn as at first he laid them. All that is below the royal pavilions of God is but as a little bundle which he can soon untie and scatter about, nor are the things tied up of such worth and value that he should lose by doing it; how much more easy is it for him to destroy (as he hath spoken) your land and cities, which are a very small thing compared with the whole world, and this as a point compared with the unmeasurable greatness of the heavens! You set a value on yourselves, and are proud, and think that God will not lose, such jewels; as if a king in his royalty should fear to lose a pin’s head, or one atom of dust that lieth on his footstool.

Calleth; the easiest way a man can take to get any thing done; nothing so easy for man to do, as it is easy for God to drown a sinful nation or world: possibly God by this may mind them what seeming impossibility he did when he called for the waters of the sea to drown the old world, and would hereby make them see that he can now do the like.

For the waters of the sea; either by wholesale in judgment to drown, or by retail by vapours in mercy to give rain.

And poureth them out, in storms and violence, or in gentler showers, to punish or refresh.

Upon the face of the earth; either a particular nation, or the whole world.

The Lord is his name; eternal, unchangeable, almighty, and just: see Amos 5:8. It is he that buildeth his stories in the heaven,.... The three elements, according to Aben Ezra, fire, air, and water; the orbs, as Kimchi, one above another; a word near akin to this is rendered "his chambers", which are the clouds, Psalm 104:3; perhaps the heaven, and the heaven of heavens, which are three stories high, may be meant; we read of the third heaven, 2 Corinthians 12:2; and particularly the throne of God is in the highest heaven; and the "ascents" (y) to it, as it may be rendered. The Targum is,

"who causeth to dwell in a high fortress the Shechinah of his glory:''

and hath founded his troop in the earth; this Kimchi interprets of the three above elements. So the words are translated in the Bishops' Bible in Queen Elizabeth's time,

"he buildeth his spheres in the heaven, and hath laid the foundation of his globe of elements in the earth.''

Aben Ezra interprets it of animals; it may take in the whole compass of created beings on earth; so Jarchi explains it of the collection of his creatures; though he takes notice of another sense given, a collection of the righteous, which are the foundation of the earth, and for whose sake all things stand. Abarbinel interprets it of the whole of the tribe of Israel; and so the Targum paraphrases it of his congregation or church on earth: he beautifies his elect, which are "his bundle" (z), as it may be rendered; who are bound up in the bundle of life with the Lord their God, and are closely knit and united, as to God and Christ, so to one another; and perhaps is the best sense of the words (a):

he that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth, the Lord is his name; either to drown it, as at the general deluge; or to water and refresh it, as he does by exhaling water from the sea, and then letting it down in plentiful showers upon the earth; See Gill on Amos 5:8; now all these things are observed to show the power of God, and that therefore there can be no hope of escaping out of his hands.

(y) "ascensiones suus", Pagninus, Montanus, Munster, Tigurine version, "gradus suo", Vatablus, Drusius, Cocceius. (z) "fasciculum suum", Montanus, Munster, Mercerus, Vatablus, Drusius, Burkius. (a) Schultens in Observ. ad Genesin, p. 197, 198, observes, that "agad", with the Arabs, signifies primarily to "bind", and is by them transferred to a building firmly bound, and compact together; and so may intend here in Amos the Lord's building, the church, which he hath founded in the earth; and so with Golius and Castellus is a building firmly compacted together. is used for a bunch of hyssop, Exodus 12.27. and in the Misnic language for a handful or bundle of anything; see Buxtorf. Lex. Talmud. rad.

It is he that buildeth his {d} stories in the heaven, and hath founded his troop in the earth; he that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The LORD is his name.

(d) He declares by the wonderful power of God, by the making of the heavens and the elements, that it is not possible for man to escape his judgments when he punishes.

6. That buildeth his upper chambers in the heaven, and hath founded his vault upon the earth] The Hebrews pictured the sky as a solid vault (firmamentum), resting at its extremities upon the earth (Job 26:11): in this vault the heavenly bodies were imagined to revolve: “in front of it” (i.e. in the open air below its lower surface) the birds flew (Genesis 1:20): above it were reservoirs in which rain was stored (as also snow and hail); and above these “waters above the firmament” Jehovah sat enthroned. The words are thus intended to illustrate Jehovah’s power by pointing to the palace which He has constructed for Himself on high, and firmly secured, by resting its foundations upon the solid earth. The word rendered upper chambers elsewhere means ascent, steps (hence A.V. stories, i.e. successive heights), which has been adopted by some commentators here (as though the reference were to the ascent or steps by which Jehovah’s heavenly palace was to be reached). But most authorities treat ma‘ălâh here as a synonym of ‘ăliyyâh in Psalm 104:3, “Who layeth the beams of his upper chambers in the waters,” cf. Amos 9:14 “Who watereth the mountains from his upper chambers.”

vault] lit. band,—properly, it is probable, like the Arab.’ijâd, an arch, as something firmly held together. The word (which is a rare one) is used elsewhere of a bunch of hyssop (Exodus 12:22), of the bands of a yoke (Isaiah 58:6), and of a band of men (2 Samuel 2:25). Here it denotes what is usually called the râḳîa‘(lit. something beaten or spread out)[199], the (στερέωμα, or “firmament,” the vast hemi-spherical vault which, to the eye innocent of the truths of astronomy, seems to rest as a huge cupola upon the earth.

[199] Comp. the cognate verb, as applied to metals, Exodus 39:3; Numbers 16:39 : Jeremiah 10:9; Isaiah 40:19 (R.V. spreadeth over).

that calleth for the waters of the sea, &c.] repeated from Amos 5:8 b (where see note). The violent, and long-continued rains, occurring in Eastern climates, are another proof of Jehovah’s power over nature.Verse 6. - Stories; ἀνάβασιν (Septuagint); ascensionem (Vulgate); upper chambers, or the stages by which is the ascent to the highest heavens (comp. Deuteronomy 10:14; 1 Kings 8:27; Psalm 104:3). His troop (aguddah); vault. The word is used for "the bonds" of the yoke in Isaiah 58:6; for "the bunch" of hyssop in Exodus 12:22. So the Vulgate here renders fasciculum suum, with the notion that the stories or chambers just mentioned are bound together to connect heaven and earth. But the clause means, God hath founded the vault or firmament of heaven upon (not in) the earth, where his throne is placed, and whence he sends the rain. The Septuagint renders, τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν αὐτοῦ, "his promise." So the Syriac. The waters of the sea. The reference is to the Deluge (Amos 5:8; Genesis 7:4, 11). Fulfilment of the judgment upon all the heathen predicted in Joel 3:2. Compare the similar prediction of judgment in Zechariah 14:2. The call is addressed to all nations to equip themselves for battle, and march into the valley of Jehoshaphat to war against the people of God, but in reality to be judged by the Lord through His heavenly heroes, whom He sends down thither. Joel 3:9. "Proclaim ye this among the nations; sanctify a war, awaken the heroes, let all the men of war draw near and come up! Joel 3:10. Forge your coulters into swords, and your vine-sickles into spears: let the weak one say, A hero am I. Joe 3:11. Hasten and come, all ye nations round about, and assemble yourselves! Let thy heroes come down thither, O Jehovah! Joel 3:12. The nations are to rise up, and come into the valley of Jehoshaphat; for there shall I sit to judge all the heathen round about." The summons to prepare for war (Joel 3:9) is addressed, not to the worshippers of Jehovah or the Israelites scattered among the heathen (Cyr., Calv., Umbreit), but to the heathen nations, though not directly to the heroes and warriors among the heathen, but to heralds, who are to listen to the divine message, and convey it to the heathen nations. This change belongs to the poetical drapery of thought, that at a sign from the Lord the heathen nations are to assemble together for war against Israel. קדּשׁ מלחמה does not mean "to declare war" (Hitzig), but to consecrate a war, i.e., to prepare for war by sacrifices and religious rites of consecration (cf. 1 Samuel 7:8-9; Jeremiah 6:4). העירוּ: waken up or arouse (not wake up) the heroes from their peaceful rest to battle. With יגּשׁוּ the address passes over from the second person to the third, which Hitzig accounts for on the ground that the words state what the heralds are to say to the nations or heroes; but the continuance of the imperative kōttū in Joel 3:10 does not suit this. This transition is a very frequent one (cf. Isaiah 41:1; Isaiah 34:1), and may be very simply explained from the lively nature of the description. עלה is here applied to the advance of hostile armies against a land or city. The nations are to summon up all their resources and all their strength for this war, because it will be a decisive one. They are to forge the tools of peaceful agriculture into weapons of war (compare Isaiah 2:4 and Micah 4:3, where the Messianic times of peace are depicted as the turning of weapons of war into instruments of agriculture). Even the weak one is to rouse himself up to be a hero, "as is generally the case when a whole nation is seized with warlike enthusiasm" (Hitzig). This enthusiasm is expressed still further in the appeal in Joel 3:11 to assemble together as speedily as possible. The ἁπ. λεγ. עוּשׁ is related to חוּשׁ, to hasten; whereas no support can be found in the language to the meaning "assemble," adopted by the lxx, Targ., etc. The expression כּל־הגּוים by no means necessitates our taking these words as a summons or challenge on the part of Joel to the heathen, as Hitzig does; for this can be very well interpreted as a summons, with which the nations call one another to battle, as the following ונקבּצוּ requires; and the assumption of Hitzig, Ewald, and others, that this form is the imperative for הקּבצוּ, cannot be sustained from Isaiah 43:9 and Jeremiah 50:5. It is not till Joel 3:11 that Joel steps in with a prayer addressed to the Lord, that He will send down His heavenly heroes to the place to which the heathen are flowing together. Hanchath an imper. hiph., with pathach instead of tzere, on account of the guttural, from nâchath, to come down. The heroes of Jehovah are heavenly hosts, or angels, who execute His commands as gibbōrē khōăch (Psalm 103:20, cf. Psalm 78:25). This prayer is answered thus by Jehovah in Joel 3:12 : "Let the nations rise up, and come into the valley of Jehoshaphat, for there will He hold judgment upon them." יעורוּ corresponds to העירוּ in Joel 3:9; and at the close, "all the heathen round about" is deliberately repeated. Still there is no antithesis in this to "all nations" in Joel 3:2, as though here the judgment was simply to come upon the hostile nations in the neighbourhood of Judah, and not upon all the heathen universally (Hitzig). For even in Joel 3:2 כל הגוים are simply all the heathen who have attacked the people of Jehovah - that is to say, all the nations round about Israel. Only these are not merely the neighbouring nations to Judah, but all heathen nations who have come into contact with the kingdom of God, i.e., all the nations of the earth without exception, inasmuch as before the last judgment the gospel of the kingdom is to be preached in all the world for a testimony to all nations (Matthew 24:14; Mark 13:10).

It is to the last decisive judgment, in which all the single judgments find their end, that the command of Jehovah to His strong heroes refers. Joel 3:13. "Put ye in the sickle; for the harvest is ripe: come, tread, for the win-press is full, the vats overflow: for their wickedness is great." The judgment is represented under the double figure of the reaping of the fields and the treading out of the grapes in the wine-press. The angels are first of all summoned to reap the ripe corn (Isaiah 17:5; Revelation 14:16), and then commanded to tread the wine-presses that are filled with grapes. The opposite opinion expressed by Hitzig, viz., that the command to tread the wine-presses is preceded by the command to cut off the grapes, is supported partly by the erroneous assertion, that bâshal is not applied to the ripening of corn, and partly upon the arbitrary assumption that qâtsı̄r, a harvest, stands for bâtsı̄r, a vintage; and maggâl, a sickle (cf. Jeremiah 50:16), for mazmērâh, a vine-dresser's bill. But bâshal does not mean "to boil," either primarily or literally, but to be done, or to be ripe, like the Greek πέσσω, πέπτω, to ripen, to make soft, to boil (see at Exodus 12:9), and hence in the piel both to boil and roast, and in the hiphil to make ripe of ripen (Genesis 40:10), applied both to grapes and corn. It is impossible to infer from the fact that Isaiah (Isaiah 16:9) uses the word qâtsı̄r for the vintage, on account of the alliteration with qayits, that this is also the meaning of the word in Joel. But we have a decisive proof in the resumption of this passage in Revelation 14:15 and Revelation 14:18, where the two figures (of the corn-harvest and the gathering of the grapes) are kept quite distinct, and the clause כּי בשׁל קציר is paraphrased and explained thus: "The time is come for thee to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe." The ripeness of the corn is a figurative representation of ripeness for judgment. Just as in the harvest - namely, at the threshing and winnowing connected with the harvest - the grains of corn are separated from the husk, the wheat being gathered into the barns, the husk blown away by the wind, and the straw burned; so will the good be separated from the wicked by the judgment, the former being gathered into the kingdom of God for the enjoyment of eternal life, - the latter, on the other hand, being given up to eternal death. The harvest field is the earth (ἡ γῆ, Revelation 14:16), i.e., the inhabitants of the earth, the human race. The ripening began at the time of the appearance of Christ upon the earth (John 4:35; Matthew 9:38). With the preaching of the gospel among all nations, the judgment of separation and decision (ἡ κρίσις, John 3:18-21) commenced; with the spread of the kingdom of Christ in the earth it passes over all nations; and it will be completed in the last judgment, on the return of Christ in glory at the end of this world. Joel does not carry out the figure of the harvest any further, but simply presents the judgment under the similar figure of the treading of the grapes that have been gathered. רדוּ, not from yârad, to descend, but from râdâh, to trample under foot, tread the press that is filled with grapes. השׁיקוּ היקבים is used in Joel 2:24 to denote the most abundant harvest; here it is figuratively employed to denote the great mass of men who are ripe for the judgment, as the explanatory clause, for "their wicked (deed) is much," or "their wickedness is great," which recals Genesis 6:5, clearly shows. The treading of the wine-press does not express the idea of wading in blood, or the execution of a great massacre; but in Isaiah 63:3, as well as in Revelation 14:20, it is a figure denoting an annihilating judgment upon the enemies of God and of His kingdom. The wine-press is "the wine-press of the wrath of God," i.e., "what the wine-press is to ordinary grapes, the wrath of God is to the grapes referred to here" (Hengstenberg on Revelation 14:19).

The execution of this divine command is not expressly mentioned, but in Joel 3:14. the judgment is simply depicted thus: first of all we have a description of the streaming of the nations into the valley of judgment, and then of the appearance of Jehovah upon Zion in the terrible glory of the Judge of the world, and as the refuge of His people. Joel 3:14. "Tumult, tumult in the valley of decision: for the day of Jehovah is near in the valley of decision." Hămōnı̄m are noisy crowds, whom the prophet sees in the Spirit pouring into the valley of Jehoshaphat. The repetition of the word is expressive of the great multitude, as in 2 Kings 3:16. עמק החרוּץ not valley of threshing; for though chârūts is used in Isaiah 28:27 and Isaiah 41:15 for the threshing-sledge, it is not used for the threshing itself, but valley of the deciding judgment, from chârats, to decide, to determine irrevocably (Isaiah 10:22; 1 Kings 20:40), so that chârūts simply defines the name Jehoshaphat with greater precision. כּי קרוב וגו (compare Joel 1:15; Joel 2:1) is used here to denote the immediate proximity of the judgment, which bursts at once, according to Joel 3:15.

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