Amos 9:9
For, see, 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 on the earth.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(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.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
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). 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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