Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Moab, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because he burned the bones of the king of Edom into lime:
Am 2:1-16. Charges against Moab, Judah, and Lastly Israel, the Chief Subject of Amos' Prophecies.
1. burned … bones of … king of Edom into lime—When Jehoram of Israel, Jehoshaphat of Judah, and the king of Edom, combined against Mesha king of Moab, the latter failing in battle to break through to the king of Edom, took the oldest son of the latter and offered him as a burnt offering on the wall (2Ki 3:27) [Michaelis]. Thus, "king of Edom" is taken as the heir to the throne of Edom. But "his son" is rather the king of Moab's own son, whom the father offered to Molech [Josephus, Antiquities, 9.3]. Thus the reference here in Amos is not to that fact, but to the revenge which probably the king of Moab took on the king of Edom, when the forces of Israel and Judah had retired after their successful campaign against Moab, leaving Edom without allies. The Hebrew tradition is that Moab in revenge tore from their grave and burned the bones of the king of Edom, the ally of Jehoram and Jehoshaphat, who was already buried. Probably the "burning of the bones" means, "he burned the king of Edom alive, reducing his very bones to lime" [Maurer].
But I will send a fire upon Moab, and it shall devour the palaces of Kerioth: and Moab shall die with tumult, with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet:
2. Kirioth—the chief city of Moab, called also Kir-Moab (Isa 15:1). The form is plural here, as including both the acropolis and town itself (see Jer 48:24, 41, Margin).
die with tumult—that is, amid the tumult of battle (Ho 10:14).
And I will cut off the judge from the midst thereof, and will slay all the princes thereof with him, saith the LORD.
3. the judge—the chief magistrate, the supreme source of justice. "King" not being used, it seems likely a change of government had before this time substituted for kings, supreme judges.
Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have despised the law of the LORD, and have not kept his commandments, and their lies caused them to err, after the which their fathers have walked:
4. From foreign kingdoms he passes to Judah and Israel, lest it should be said, he was strenuous in denouncing sins abroad, but connived at those of his own nation. Judah's guilt differs from that of all the others, in that it was directly against God, not merely against man. Also because Judah's sin was wilful and wittingly against light and knowledge.
law—the Mosaic code in general.
commandments—or statutes, the ceremonies and civil laws.
their lies—their lying idols (Ps 40:4; Jer 16:19), from which they drew false hopes. The order is to be observed. The Jews first cast off the divine law, then fall into lying errors; God thus visiting them with a righteous retribution (Ro 1:25, 26, 28; 2Th 2:11, 12). The pretext of a good intention is hereby refuted: the "lies" that mislead them are "their (own) lies" [Calvin].
after … which their fathers … walked—We are not to follow the fathers in error, but must follow the word of God alone. It was an aggravation of the Jews' sin that it was not confined to preceding generations; the sins of the sons rivalled those of their fathers (Mt 23:32; Ac 7:51) [Calvin].
But I will send a fire upon Judah, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem.
5. a fire—Nebuchadnezzar.
Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes;
6. Israel—the ten tribes, the main subject of Amos' prophecies.
sold the righteous—Israel's judges for a bribe are induced to condemn in judgment him who has a righteous cause; in violation of De 16:19.
the poor for a pair of shoes—literally, "sandals" of wood, secured on the foot by leather straps; less valuable than shoes. Compare the same phrase, for "the most paltry bribe," Am 8:6; Eze 13:19; Joe 3:3. They were not driven by poverty to such a sin; beginning with suffering themselves to be tempted by a large bribe, they at last are so reckless of all shame as to prostitute justice for the merest trifle. Amos convicts them of injustice, incestuous unchastity, and oppression first, as these were so notorious that they could not deny them, before he proceeds to reprove their contempt of God, which they would have denied on the ground that they worshipped God in the form of the calves.
That pant after the dust of the earth on the head of the poor, and turn aside the way of the meek: and a man and his father will go in unto the same maid, to profane my holy name:
7. pant after … dust of … earth on … head of … poor—that is, eagerly thirst for this object, by their oppression to prostrate the poor so as to cast the dust on their heads in mourning on the earth (compare 2Sa 1:2; Job 2:12; Eze 27:30).
turn aside … way of … meek—pervert their cause (Am 5:12; Job 24:4 [Grotius]; Isa 10:2).
a man and his father—a crime "not so much as named among the Gentiles" (1Co 5:1). When God's people sin in the face of light, they often fall lower than even those who know not God.
go in unto the same maid—from Am 2:8 it seems likely "the damsel" meant is one of the prostitutes attached to the idol Astarte's temple: prostitution being part of her filthy worship.
to profane my … name—Israel in such abominations, as it were, designedly seeks to insult God.
And they lay themselves down upon clothes laid to pledge by every altar, and they drink the wine of the condemned in the house of their god.
8. lay themselves … upon clothes laid to pledge—the outer garment, which Ex 22:25-27 ordered to be restored to the poor man before sunset, as being his only covering. It aggravated the crime that they lay on these clothes in an idol temple.
by every altar—They partook in a recumbent posture of their idolatrous feasts; the ancients being in the habit of reclining at full length in eating, the upper part of the body resting on the left elbow, not sitting as we do.
drink … wine of the condemned—that is, wine bought with the money of those whom they unjustly fined.
Yet destroyed I the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars, and he was strong as the oaks; yet I destroyed his fruit from above, and his roots from beneath.
9. Yet—My former benefits to you heighten your ingratitude.
the Amorite—the most powerful of all the Canaanite nations, and therefore put for them all (Ge 15:16; 48:22; De 1:20; Jos 7:7).
height … like … cedars—(Nu 13:32, 33).
destroyed his fruit … above … roots … beneath—that is, destroyed him utterly (Job 18:16; Eze 17:9; Mal 4:1).
Also I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and led you forty years through the wilderness, to possess the land of the Amorite.
10. brought you up from … Egypt—"brought up" is the phrase, as Egypt was low and flat, and Canaan hilly.
to possess the land of the Amorite—The Amorites strictly occupied both sides of the Jordan and the mountains afterward possessed by Judah; but they here, as in Am 2:9, stand for all the Canaanites. God kept Israel forty years in the wilderness, which tended to discipline them in His statutes, so as to be the better fitted for entering on the possession of Canaan.
And I raised up of your sons for prophets, and of your young men for Nazarites. Is it not even thus, O ye children of Israel? saith the LORD.
11. Additional obligations under which Israel lay to God; the prophets and Nazarites, appointed by Him, to furnish religious instruction and examples of holy self-restraint.
of your young men—It was a specimen of Israel's highly favored state, that, of the class most addicted to pleasures, God chose those who by a solemn vow bound themselves to abstinence from all produce of the vine, and from all ceremonial and moral defilement. The Nazarite was not to shave (Nu 6:2, &c.). God left nothing undone to secure the purity of their worship and their faithfulness to it (La 4:7). The same comes from a Hebrew root, nazar, "to set apart." Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist were Nazarites.
Is it not even thus—Will any of you dare to deny it is so?
But ye gave the Nazarites wine to drink; and commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not.
12. Ye so despised these My favors, as to tempt the Nazarite to break his vow; and forbade the prophets prophesying (Isa 30:10). So Amaziah forbade Amos (Am 7:12, 13, 14).
Behold, I am pressed under you, as a cart is pressed that is full of sheaves.
13. I am pressed under you—so Calvin (Compare Isa 1:14). The Margin translates actively, "I will depress your place," that is, "I will make it narrow," a metaphor for afflicting a people; the opposite of enlarging, that is, relieving (Ps 4:1; Pr 4:12). Maurer translates, "I will press you down" (not as Margin, "your place"; so the Hebrew, Job 40:12; or Am 2:7 in Hebrew text). Amos, as a shepherd, appropriately draws his similes from rustic scenes.
Therefore the flight shall perish from the swift, and the strong shall not strengthen his force, neither shall the mighty deliver himself:
14. flight shall perish from … swift—Even the swift shall not be able to escape.
strong shall not strengthen his force—that is, shall not be able to use his strength.
himself—literally, "his life."
Neither shall he stand that handleth the bow; and he that is swift of foot shall not deliver himself: neither shall he that rideth the horse deliver himself.
And he that is courageous among the mighty shall flee away naked in that day, saith the LORD.
16. flee … naked—If any escape, it must be with the loss of accoutrements, and all that would impede rapid flight. They must be content with saving their life alone.