Amos 9:9
For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth.
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(9, 10) Sift.—Literally, shake to and fro. That which is not chaff shall be preserved and dispersed as seed. The race shall live, though the kingdom be destroyed. This peculiar judgment is threatened in Leviticus 26:33; Deuteronomy 28:64. (Comp. Hosea 9:17.) The prediction is very remarkable, as pointing to the indestructible vitality of the race, and its wide diffusion among all nations.

Prevent us.—Better, assail us.

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.For lo! I will command! - Literally, "lo! see, I am commanding." He draws their attention to it, as something which shall shortly be; and inculcates that He is the secret disposer of all which shall befall them. "And I will sift the house of Israel among all nations." Amos enlarges the prophecy of Hosea, "they shall be wanderers among the nations." He adds two thoughts; the violence with which they shall be shaken, and that this their unsettled life, to and fro, shall be not "among the nations" only, but "in all" nations. In every quarter of the world, and in well-nigh every nation in every quarter, Jews have been found. The whole earth is, as it were, one vast sieve in the Hands of God, in which Israel is shaken from one end to the other. There has been one ceaseless tossing to and fro, as the grain in the sieve is tossed from side to side, and rests nowhere, until all is sifted.

Each nation in whom they have been found has been an instrument of their being shaken, sifted, severed, the grain from the dirt and chaff; And yet in their whole compass, "not the least grain," no solid grain, not one grain, should "fall to the earth." The chaff and dust would be blown away by the air; the dirt which clave to it would fall through; but "no one grain." God, in all these centuries, has had an eye on each soul of His people in their dispersion throughout all lands. The righteous too have been shaken up and down, through and through; yet not one soul has been lost, which, by the help of God's Holy Spirit, willed truly and earnestly to be saved. Before Christ came, they who were His, believed in Him who should come; when He came, they who were His were converted to Him; as Paul saith, "Hath God cast away His people? God forbid! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin - God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew - At this present time also there is a remnant, according to the election of grace" Romans 11:1-2, Romans 11:5.

Rib.: "What is here said of all, God doth daily in each of the elect. For they are 'the wheat" of God, which, in order to be "laid up in" the heavenly "garner," must be pure from chaff and dust. To this end He sifts them by afflictions and troubles, in youth, manhood, old age, wheresoever they are, in whatsoever occupied, and proves them again and again. At one time the elect enjoyeth tranquility of mind, is bedewed by heavenly refreshments, prayeth as he wills, loveth, gloweth, hath no taste for ought except God. Then again he is dry, experienceth the heaven to be as brass, his prayer is hindered by distracting thoughts, his feet are as lead to deeds of virtue, his "hands bang down," his "knees" are "feeble" Hebrews 12:12, he dreads death; he sticks fast, languishes. He is shaken in a sieve, that he may mistrust self, place his hope in God, and the dust of vain-glory may be shaken off. He is proved, that it may appear whether he cleave to God for the reward of present enjoyment, or for the hope of future, for longing for the glory of God and for love of Himself. God suffereth him also to be sifted by the devil through various temptations to sin, as he said to the Apostle, "Simon, lo! Satan hath desired you, to sift you as wheat" Luke 22:31. But this is the power of God, this His grace to the elect, this the devil attaineth by his sifting, that the dust of immoderate self love, of vain confidence, of love of the world, should fall off: this Satan effecteth not, that the least deed which pertaineth to the inward house and the dwelling which they prepare in their souls for God, should perish. Rather, as we see in holy Job, virtues will increase, grow, be strengthened."

9. sift—I will cause the Israelites to be tossed about through all nations as corn is shaken about in a sieve, in such a way, however, that while the chaff and dust (the wicked) fall through (perish), all the solid grains (the godly elect) remain (are preserved), (Ro 11:26; compare Note, see on [1145]Jer 3:14). So spiritual Israel's final safety is ensured (Lu 22:32; Joh 10:28; 6:39). For, lo: as this confirms what the 8th verse promiseth, so it requireth a very diligent and full attention of us.

I will command, or give a charge to all nations whither these exiled persons shall come, and they shall observe the charge, it shall as surely be done as it is spoken.

I will sift the house of Israel among all nations; though Assyrians and other nations be the means and instruments, yet God’s hand is principal; whilst they would toss and scatter Israel with violence, yet God will hold the sieve, and guide their hands, and set bounds to their violence.

Like as corn is sifted in a sieve, by a skilful and careful husbandman, who designs to separate the chaff from the corn; to preserve this, to tread the other under foot.

Yet shall not the least grain; though covered under much chaff, though tumbled and tossed with the greatest violence, and without any regard to it, yet the smallest and least regarded good grain shall not be lost or destroyed with that fire which consumeth the chaff.

Fall upon the earth, i.e. perish, or be lost; so the phrase 1 Samuel 26:20 2 Samuel 14:11 1 Kings 1:52. Here is a promise of preservation as great and wonderful, and as hardly comprehended, as was the threatened punishment.

For, lo, I will command,.... What follows; which is expressive of afflictive and trying dispensations of Providence, which are according to the will of God, by his appointment and order, and overruled for his glory, and the good of his people:

and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, as corn is sifted in a sieve; this is to be understood of spiritual Israel, of those who are Israelites indeed, who are like to corns of wheat, first die before they live; die unto sin, and live unto righteousness; grow up gradually, and produce much fruit; or like to wheat for their choiceness and excellency, being the chosen of God and precious, and the excellent in the earth; and their whiteness and purity, as clothed with Christ's righteousness washed in his blood, and sanctified by his Spirit; and for their substance and fulness, being filled out of Christ's fulness, and with all the fulness of God, with the Spirit and his graces, and with all the fruits of righteousness; and for weight and solidity, not as chaff driven to and fro, but are firm and constant, settled and established, in divine things; and yet have the chaff of sin cleaving to them, and have need of the flail and fan of affliction; and this is the sieve the Lord takes into his hands, and sifts them with; whereby sometimes they are greatly unsettled, and tossed to and fro, have no rest and ease, but are greatly distressed on all sides, and are thoroughly searched and tried, and the chaff loosened and separated from them; and sometimes the Lord suffers them to be sifted by the temptations of Satan, whereby they are brought into doubts and fears, and are very wavering and uncomfortable, are sadly harassed and buffeted, and in great danger, were it not for the grace of God, and the intercession of the Mediator, Luke 22:31;

yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth; or, "the least stone" (p); which is in the spiritual building, and laid on the rock and foundation Christ; or the least corn of wheat, so called because of its weight, solidity, and substance. The meaning is, that the least true Israelite, or child of God, who is the least in the kingdom of heaven, and has the least share of grace and spiritual knowledge, that is even less than the least of all saints, shall not be lost and perish; though they fall in Adam, yet they are preserved in Christ; though they fall into actual sins and transgressions, and sometimes into gross ones, and from a degree of steadfastness in the faith, yet not totally and finally, or so as to perish for ever; no, not a hair of their head shall fall to the ground, or they be hurt and ruined; see 1 Samuel 14:45; for they are beloved of God with an everlasting love, ordained, by him to eternal life, adopted into his family, justified by his grace, and are kept by his power, according to his promise, which never fails; they are Christ's property, given him of his Father, to whom he stands in the relation of Head and Husband; are the purchase of his blood, closely united to him, and for whom he intercedes, and makes preparations in heaven. The Spirit of God is their sanctifier and sealer; he dwells in them as their earnest of heaven; and the glory of all the divine Persons is concerned in their salvation; hence it is that not one of them shall ever perish.

(p) "lapillus", Pagninus, Montanus, Mercerus, Munster, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Drusius, Cocceius; so Ben Melech.

For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the {h} least grain fall upon the earth.

(h) Meaning that none of his own would perish in his wrath.

9. The nation must go into exile (Amos 4:2 f., Amos 5:27 &c.); it must even be shaken to and fro among the nations, as in a sieve: but no sound grain of corn will fall to the ground and be lost. The dispersion of Israel in all directions is compared by the prophet to the movement of a sieve, in which the solid grains, though violently shaken about, are retained and preserved, while chaff and dust fall through the meshes to the ground. The least grain is lit. a pebble, appar, fig. for a solid grain, though the word is not elsewhere so used. Preuschen (Z.A.T.W[201] 1895, p. 24) supposes the reference to be to the pebbles left behind in the sieve (kirbâl), as still used in Syria for cleansing the winnowed corn.

[201] .A.T.W.Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft.

Verse 9. - For, lo! He explains how and why the whole nation is not destroyed. I will sift. Israel is to be dispersed among the nations, tried and winnowed among them by affliction and persecution, that the evil may fall to the ground and perish, and the good be preserved. The word rendered "sift" implies "to shake to and fro;" and this shaking shall show who are the true Israelites and who are the false, who retain their faith and cleave to the Lord under all difficulties, and who lose their hold of true religion and assimilate themselves to the heathen among whom they dwell. These last shall not return from captivity. The least grain; Hebrew, tseror, "pebble;" so the Vulgate, lapillus; Septuagint, σύντριμμα," fragment." It is used in 2 Samuel 17:13 of small stones in a building; here as hard grain in distinction from loose chaff (Keil). The solid grain, the good wheat, are the righteous, who, when the chaff and dust are cast away, are stored in the heavenly garner, prove themselves of the election, and inherit the promises (comp. Isaiah 6:13; Ezekiel 20:38; Matthew 3:12). Fall upon the earth; i.e. perish, be lost (1 Samuel 26:20). Amos 9:9Election, therefore, will not save sinful Israel from destruction. After Amos has thus cut off all hope of deliverance from the ungodly, he repeats, in his own words in Amos 9:8., the threat already exhibited symbolically in Amos 9:1. Amos 9:8. "Behold, the eyes of the Lord Jehovah are against the sinful kingdom, and I destroy it from off the face of the earth; except that I shall not utterly destroy the house of Jacob: is the saying of Jehovah. Amos 9:9. For, behold, I command, and shake the house of Israel among all nations, as (corn) is shaken in a sieve, and not even a little grain falls to the ground. Amos 9:10. All the sinners of my people will die by the sword, who say, The evil will not overtake or come to us." The sinful kingdom is Israel; not merely the kingdom of the ten tribes however, but all Israel, the kingdom of the ten tribes along with Judah, the house of Jacob or Israel, which is identical with the sons of Israel, who had become like the Cushites, although Amos had chiefly the people and kingdom of the ten tribes in his mind. Bammamlâkhâh, not upon the kingdom, but against the kingdom. The directing of the eye upon an object is expressed by על (Amos 9:4) or אל (cf. Psalm 34:16); whereas ב is used in relation to the object upon which anger rests (Psalm 34:17). Because the Lord had turned His eye towards the sinful kingdom, He must exterminate it, - a fate with which Moses had already threatened the nation in Deuteronomy 6:15. Nevertheless (אפס כּי, "only that," introducing the limitation, as in Numbers 13:28; Deuteronomy 15:4) the house of Jacob, the covenant nation, shall not be utterly destroyed. The "house of Jacob" is opposed to the "sinful nation;" not, however, so that the antithesis simply lies in the kingdom and people (regnum delebo, non populum), or that the "house of Jacob" signifies the kingdom of Judah as distinguished from the kingdom of the ten tribes, for the "house of Jacob" is perfectly equivalent to the "house of Israel" (Amos 9:9). The house of Jacob is not to be utterly destroyed, but simply to be shaken, as it were, in a sieve. The antithesis lies in the predicate החטּא, the sinful kingdom. So far as Israel, as a kingdom and people, is sinful, it is to be destroyed from off the face of the earth. But there is always a divine kernel in the nation, by virtue of its divine election, a holy seed out of which the Lord will form a new and holy people and kingdom of God. Consequently the destruction will not be a total one, a השׁמיד אשׁמיד. The reason for this is introduced by kı̄ (for) in Amos 9:9. The Lord will shake Israel among the nations, as corn is shaken in a sieve; so that the chaff flies away, and the dust and dirt fall to the ground, and only the good grains are left in the sieve. Such a sieve are the nations of the world, through which Israel is purified from its chaff, i.e., from its ungodly members. Tserōr, generally a bundle; here, according to its etymology, that which is compact or firm, i.e., solid grain as distinguished from loose chaff. In 2 Samuel 17:13 it is used in a similar sense to denote a hard piece of clay or a stone in a building. Not a single grain fill fall to the ground, that is to say, not a good man will be lost (cf. 1 Samuel 26:20). The self-secure sinners, however, who rely upon their outward connection with the nation of God (compare Amos 9:7 and Amos 3:2), or upon their zeal in the outward forms of worship (Amos 5:21.), and fancy that the judgment cannot touch them (הקדּים בּעד, to come to meet a person round about him, i.e., to come upon him from every side), will all perish by the sword. This threat is repeated at the close, without any formal link of connection with Amos 9:9, not only to prevent any abuse of the foregoing modification of the judgment, but also to remove this apparent discrepancy, that whereas in Amos 9:1-4 it is stated that not one will escape the judgment, according to Amos 9:8, the nation of Israel is not to be utterly destroyed. In order to anticipate the frivolity of the ungodly, who always flatter themselves with the hope of escaping when there is a threatening of any general calamity, the prophet first of all cuts off all possibilities whatever in Amos 9:1-4, without mentioning the exceptions; and it is not till afterwards that the promise is introduced that the house of Israel shall not be utterly annihilated, whereby the general threat is limited to sinners, and the prospect of deliverance and preservation through the mercy of God is opened to the righteous. The historical realization or fulfilment of this threat took place, so far as Israel of the ten tribes was concerned, when their kingdom was destroyed by the Assyrians, and in the case of Judah, at the overthrow of the kingdom and temple by the Chaldeans; and the shaking of Israel in the sieve is still being fulfilled upon the Jews who are dispersed among all nations.
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