Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
III. Threatening Discourses against the Kingdom of Israel in the Shape of Visions. A Promise in the Conclusion
Three Visions. Two of National Calamities are averted at the Request of the Prophet. The Third, of a Plumb-Line, indicates the certain Downfall of the Kingdom. Attempt of the Priest Amaziah to banish Amos from Bethel: thereupon a sharper Threat, especially against Amaziah.
1 THUS the Lord Jehovah showed me;
And behold, He formed locusts,1
In the beginning of the springing up of the second crop;
And lo, it was a second crop after the king’s mowing.
2 And when they had finished eating the plants2 of the land,
Then I said, O Lord Jehovah, forgive, I pray,
How can Jacob stand,
For it is small.
3 Jehovah repented of this;3
It shall not take place, saith Jehovah.
4 Thus the Lord Jehovah showed me,
And behold, the Lord Jehovah called to punish with fire,
And it devoured the great flood,4
And devoured the inheritance.
5 Then said I, O Lord Jehovah, leave off, I pray.
How can Jacob stand,
For it is small.
6 Jehovah repented of this;
This also shall not take place, saith the Lord Jehovah.
7 Thus he showed me,
And behold, the Lord stood upon a wall made with a plumb-line5
And a plumb-line was in his hand.
8 And Jehovah said to me,
What seest thou, Amos?
And I said, a plumb-line.
And the Lord said, Behold, I put a plumb-line in the midst of my people, Israel;
I will pass by him no more.
9 And the high places of Isaac6 shall be laid waste,
And the sanctuaries of Israel shall be desolated,
And I will arise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.
10 And Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to Jeroboam the king of Israel, saying, Amos has conspired7 against thee in the midst of the house of Israel; the land is 11 not able to bear all his words. For thus has Amos said,
“By the sword shall Jeroboam die
And Israel shall go into exile out of his land.”
12 And Amaziah said to Amos, “Seer, go, flee into the land of Judah; and there eat 13 thy bread and there mayest thou prophesy. But in Bethel thou shalt no longer 14 prophesy, for it is the king’s sanctuary8 and a seat of the kingdom.” And Amos answered and said to Amaziah, “I am no prophet, nor am I a prophet’s son, but 15 I am a herdsman and a gatherer of sycamores.9 And Jehovah took me from following the flock; and Jehovah said to me, Go, prophesy to my people, Israel.”
16 And now hear the word of Jehovah,
Thou sayest, Prophesy not against Israel,
And drop10 nothing against the house of Isaac.
17 Therefore thus saith Jehovah,
Thy wife shall be dishonored in the city,
And thy sons and thy daughters shall fall by the sword;
And thy land shall be divided by line,
And thou shalt die in an unclean land,
And Israel shall go into exile out of his land.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1. Amos 7:1–6. The two first visions. The judgments they represent are at the prayer of the prophet averted.
(a.) Amos 7:1–3. First Vision. The locusts. Thus the Lord Jehovah showed me. “Showed me” is used also in the following visions. These are thus defined to be “visions,” inward intuitions, rather than mere poetical fictions. But the question arises and must be answered, What did the prophet see in the first two visions? Certainly threatening judgments. But did he see the judgments themselves, or were the transactions only a figurative representation? Did they point symbolically to the future chastisements? The latter is certainly the natural view of the third vision, and also of the fourth (chap. 8). The plumb-line and the basket of fruit are mere symbols which are subsequently explained. In the fifth vision, also, a symbolical representation is made, although the form there is somewhat different from that of the third and the fourth. But it remains to determine how we are to regard the first two. For the prophet sees here a desolation produced by locusts and by fire. Are then these the actual judgments which threaten the people, or have they only a symbolical significance? I think we must decide for the former view. In their external form, these two differ greatly from the two following. In the latter, the prophet sees only an object, but what is to be done with it or what stroke it represents, has to be stated in words; but in the former he sees a judgment fully accomplished; why then should one look for anything farther? In that view, too, the analogy between the contents of these two visions and what we read in Joel is not to be mistaken. There also there is a plague of locusts, and then “fire” (Amos 1:19); the drought, also, is there described in words transcending actual experience, so that we must regard it as a poetical representation. Yet what is there treated of is what has actually happened, while here is something which is threatened, so that it need not offend if here the colors are higher, and we read of even an ocean dried up by the heat (Amos 7:4). If now in Joel locusts and fire are found in close connection, why not here also? What, too, should the locusts and the fire “signify?” It must be destruction by the foe; and yet of this it is here said that at the request of the prophet it shall not take place, while in the third vision it is said that it shall. The first two visions then must have a different object from the third. If the meaning is that the threatened infliction is twice revoked, then it is strange that the same judgment is presented in two different images. Keil therefore assigns a different meaning to each image, regards the first two visions as the more general and severe, and gives to them—although not very clearly—a scope comprehending all the past and all the future. They indicate an entire destruction except a remnant spa ed aתהוֹם prophet’s request, and the second vision points also to a judgment that falls upon the heathen world (= תהוֹם). The removal of the two at Amos’s request teaches that these judgments are not intended to effect the annihilation of the people of God but their purification, and the rooting out of sinners from them; and that in consequence of God’s sparing grace, a holy remnant will be left. Both the following visions refer to the judgment which awaits the kingdom of the ten tribes in the immediate future.
How gratuitous is all this! Nothing of it is found in the visions themselves. What the prophet saw in the second vision is certainly not to occur; therefore the judgment upon the heathen, if it is contained there, is not to occur. Of a remnant remaining over, not a word is said. Therefore the first vision cannot be understood differently (see below). In place of assuming an anticlimax, we must rather, since the discourse has various stages, determine the contrary. But this does not suit the symbolical view of the first two visions, for, taken figuratively, they would by no means indicate a lighter judgment than the third, but rather a complete devastation of the land. A climax is obtained only by a literal interpretation, according to which there is first a national calamity, and then a blow which overturns the state as such. The sense of the whole is that God will have patience for a time, and spare the land the plagues which it deserves. But it there be no change, and the goodness of God does not lead to repentance, forbearance will cease and the downfall come. The view that the two first visions refer to the kingdom of Judah which finds forgiveness, and only the third relates to the kingdom of Israel which is not forgiven, has much apparently in its favor, e.g., the appeal to the smallness of Jacob. Still it is to be rejected. Judah is not in question here at all. The entire chapter treats of the kingdom in the midst of which the prophet is. Were Judah meant, it would be plainly stated. Manifestly, the three visions form one series, so that it is unnatural to suppose that the two former relate to Judah, and that the third refers to something altogether different. The appeal to the smallness of Jacob admits also of being fairly applied to the kingdom of Israel. In the conduct of that kingdom the prophet finds no ground for forbearance; on the contrary, so far as this is concerned, the plagues must come. There remains, then, nothing but an appeal to the divine mercy and compassion on the ground of the smallness of Israel. Upon this motive alone can the prophet base his prayer, since no claim of merit is possible. Israel is small, is weak, in comparison with the strong hand of Jehovah; as if he would say, What would then become of him? Necessarily, he must be annihilated.
We return to Amos 7:1. That He, i.e., Jehovah, formed locusts, shows clearly that the infliction is due to Jehovah, without whose will they would not come, nay, would not exist at all. At the same time the prophet sees the plague in its very beginning. But this image of the locusts occurs at a period which is defined in two ways: first, as that in which the second crop springs up, and then, this second crop is that which follows the king’s mowings. The meaning is, that the period is a very unfavorable one, first, because then the only further product of the year would be destroyed, and in the next place, because the early crop having already been mown by the king, the people were restricted to the second, and this was now threatened with destruction. Since nothing is now known of any right of the king to the early crop, Keil, in accordance with his figurative conception of the vision in general, maintains that the king is Jehovah, and the mowing denotes the judgments He has already decreed upon Israel. But this is plainly an inconsistent mingling of the sign with the thing signified. Even if we adopt the symbolical interpretation, still the feature mentioned in the supposed comparison, i.e., in the process taken from actual life, must have a definite meaning. For one cannot, on account of the signification of a comparison, attribute to it features which in themselves are foreign to it. Therefore we must assume a mowing of the early crop by the king, whether only as a fact in the present case, or as a custom, even if we know nothing from other sources of any such right.
Amos 7:2. Plants of the land. Keil says that this does not mean the second crop just mentioned, but vegetable growth suited for the food of men. When this was devoured, the second crop of grass began to grow. But if the second crop itself had been devoured, the intercession of the prophet would have come too late. This is incorrect. The prophet sees a complete destruction of what had sprung up, and just because this image with its consequent misery stands before his eyes, he prays for the entire removal of it. “The plants of the earth,’ therefore mean, certainly not the second crop in particular, but all vegetable growth in general; yet in any event the grass is included. Nor can it be inferred from the conclusion of Amos 7:1 that this second crop was conceived of as not yet grown. Rather on the contrary it was when the locusts were formed; still we cannot assume that they at first spared it and attacked only the plants.
(b.) Amos 7:4–6. Second Vision.Devouring fire = Drought. Amos 7:4. “He called to contend with fire”=he called the fire in order to punish with it. The flood, etc.=even the deepest waters should be dried up by the “fire.”
Amos 7:6. This also, i.e., as well as the threatening contained in the first vision.
2. Amos 7:7–9. The Third Vision, the plumb-line. The downfall of Israel is announced. The vision is introduced just like the two preceding, but unexpectedly has a different result. Even the symbol used—plumb-line—indicates this. But Jehovah Himself gives the explanation to the prophet, and shows that the reference is to a hostile invasion which shall certainly fall upon the kingdom as a judgment. This is the more terrible, because in such vivid contrast with the foregoing.
Amos 7:7. The wall may be considered an image of Israel, which resembled such a solid, well-constructed wall, built, as it were, by Jehovah with a plumb-line. And now Jehovah comes again with a plumb-line, not however to build up but to tear down. As carefully and thoroughly as the wall had been erected, even so carefully should it be destroyed. In the midst is emphatic. The Lord’s judgment strikes not an outwork, but the very centre. Like the plumb-line it turns neither to the right nor to the left, nor varies at all from its aim. No longer will Jehovah pass by = spare. This naturally refers to the previous threats which had been “withdrawn.
Amos 7:9. Specifies the “middle” which is to be struck by the judgment, namely, the idolatrous sanctuaries of the people, and the king’s house, i.e., the monarchy, for in truth with the fall of this house, “the power of kingdom would be broken.” (Keil.)
3. Amos 7:10–17. Opposition to the prophet at Bethel on account of his predictions. New prophecies of wrath. Priest of Bethel is plainly the high priest in the sanctuary of the golden calf at Bethel. In the midst of the house of Israelin the religious centre of the kingdom, at Bethel. For it was from Bethel (Amos 7:13) that he was ordered away.
Amos 7:11. By the sword shall Jeroboam die, cf. Amos 7:9; here the head of the house is named, but this was naturally included in the house itself. But the threat in the present form sounds more severely, and hence not without design is it thus recited in the accusation.
Amos 7:12. Amaziah informs the king concerning the prophet, not so much in order to procure his punishment, as to justify the banishment which he proposed. But he represents it to the prophet in such a way as to effect a courteous removal. Hence the command comes in the form of good advice,—Flee, eat bread, etc.=there you may earn your bread by your prophecies. He considers prophesying a calling which Amos pursued for a living—a view against which the prophet guards (Amos 7:14) in his answer. For a king’s sanctuary = founded by the king, clothed with regal authority. A house = seat of the kingdom = a royal capital. Therefore nothing should be said against the king! Unconscious, bitter satire on “the sanctuary,” where all was decided by respect for the king, not for truth, nor for God’s command.
Amos 7:14. No prophet, i.e., by profession. Prophet’s son, i.e., scholar, have never been trained in the prophetic schools—gatherer of sycamores refers to the direction in Amos 7:12. There eat thy bread. Amos says that he need not go anywhere for the sake of bread, nor did he come to Bethel or Israel for a better support. As a herdsman he had been accustomed to be content with little; that was enough for him and he sought no more. And at any moment he could return to that occupation. If he were now prophesying in Israel and acting independently, he did this not out of selfish aims, but according to Amos 7:15, only because he must, in obedience to a divine command. Whoever therefore would hinder this, sets himself against Jehovah. Therefore Amos announces to Amaziah the punishment he is to suffer when the judgment comes upon Israel.
Amos 7:16. In return for his endeavor to stop the month of Jehovah’s prophet, he must bear the announcement of his own doom.
Amos 7:17. Wife become an harlot, to be dishonored at the storming of the city. Thy land = landed possession, unclean land = among the heathen. This presupposes his exile, and with that the exile of the whole people. The latter is expressly threatened in the conclusion; and thus is confirmed what Amaziah had charged before the king (Amos 7:11), although that threat was not uttered by Amos in Amos 7:9.
DOCTRINAL AND MORAL
1. Divine judgments are announced by the prophets with so much boldness that men might easily attribute to them a lack of tenderness as if they had no regard to the sadness and misery certain to follow from what they announce. But how wrong this would be! They do feel and that very deeply. They seek by the announcement to prevail on men to repent while there is yet time, and thus forestall the impending judgments. Certainly, as they have intense moral convictions and firmly believe in the truth of a moral government of the world, they distinguish between a people ripe of judgment and one that is not. In the latter case they intercede with God for the people. So pressed are they with love and desire to see the nation delivered or spared, that, although they best know the holy earnestness of God as judge, they go to meet Him and wrestle for forgiveness. Thus the reproach of a want of compassion fails to lie in the least upon them, but rather passes over to God, the Holy. But—
2. Even He is not truly liable to it. “It shall not be!” therein his mercy set itself against his justice and overcomes it. Thus is it proved the mightier. “The Lord repented”—not surely as if He would confess the unrighteousness of” his threatening, but merely to express the frank, positive withdrawal of the threat. What was threatened was deserved, but still the punishment as destructive has not yet become a necessity. God can still spare. If the stroke did fall, there would be no unrighteousness in God, and also just as little, if it did not. How the case stands only He who is the searcher of hearts and the Judge of all the earth can certainly know. But men may and should presume that forbearance is possible, and therefore should intercede. Even this has its limits, and cannot be a duty under all circumstances, otherwise the conviction of a moral government of the world would grow weak. It is therefore by no means of course a mark of a godly mind, but it is to be highly esteemed when in men like the prophets who consider God’s punitive righteousness a holy truth, it manifests itself as an expression of love for their fellow-men; and then, too, it is efficacious. That it has efficacy indicates its high importance. It affects the action even of God Himself, and thus conditions the destiny of men, toward whom He would have acted otherwise without these intercessions than He actually has done for the sake of them. This to be sure is a position which only a theism having full faith in a personal God can allow. But such a faith involves just this, as appears by the Holy Scriptures, which, standing on the ground of an actual theism, know nothing else than that intercession has such an efficacy, and everywhere speak of it as a matter that is self evident. It is therefore clearly impossible to accept the Biblical theism, and at the same time deny the power of prayer. The question is then whether we will admit the latter, or deny theism, and with it religion in general which necessarily presupposes it. If any will not accept the latter alternative, then they must demand of science that, instead of affirming a conception of God drawn from the assumed impossibility of a theism which maintains a real efficiency of prayer with God, it should either correct its idea of God, or, if this be not allowed, should admit its inability to come to a satisfactory conclusion, and thus exercise a modesty, which so far from being degrading, would be honorable.
3. Impending judgments are here set forth by the prophet in visions; partly such as in themselves disclose the judgment God is about to execute; partly such as contain a symbolical action which afterwards is distinctly explained by God. The appearance of visions here is something new. But it must be admitted that prophetic speech and vision stand nearer together than would appear at first blush. Even in the prophetic word there lies in a sense what is substantially a vision, since the prophet at first “sees” what He is to announce; for which reason the prophet is called a “seer” (even in our Amos 5:12), and the prophetic speech “a vision,” 2 Sam. 7:17; Is. 22:5; 1:1, and the word “to see” is used simply of prophecies or prophetic utterances. If therefore Amos in chaps. 1–6 announces punishment in the most various forms, fire, plunder, desolation, killing, we must believe that through the divine efficiency such images presented themselves to his inner intuitions as incited him to the warnings and exhortations which he uttered through the power inwrought in him by the same Spirit. The two first visions afford us a glance into these inner processes. But no details of the judgment follow, because the threatened evil is averted by prayer. On the other hand, we must not obliterate the distinction between prophetic speech and vision. From the inward contemplation in which God revealed his will to the prophet, it was quite a step to the literal vision. In the latter there was a complete crystallization of the perception, which was not a necessity in every case, for even without it, the perception could find expression in prophetic words. Especially does the pure symbolical vision distinguish itself from the seeing which lies at the basis of all prophecy, and therefore from prophetic speech as such. Here at once the image as such is the principal thing. There is urgent need, however, of explanatory speech, so that here again, only from the other side, we encounter the mutual dependence of word and vision. But the vision is at first its own end, and because it does not speak for itself but needs explanation, it is here a vision in the literal sense. Whether we are to suppose that in such a case the prophet is always in an ecstatic state, we do not inquire. For the most part he is, in the case of a pure symbolic vision. Since in vision, the divine revelation becomes peculiarly precious to the prophet and makes a deeper impression than bare speech, the end it seeks is apparent. This aim is first upon the prophet who sees the vision. It renders the truth which is disclosed to him and which he is to announce, more vivid and impressive, so that he cannot do otherwise than set it forth just as he has not heard but seen it, whether actually or in the shape of a symbol. But the plastic form of the vision aimed also, and ultimately in a still greater degree, at impressing the hearer. When the prophet sets forth a literal vision, that is, what he has seen, the judgment he announces takes a concrete, tangible form which gives emphasis to the utterance, and thus dispels doubt and wins attention. The discourse seizes one more firmly when it is united with an image, even though it be symbolical; and in a certain sense this latter kind of image is still more impressive, because it is somewhat mysterious, and thus provokes attention to the explanation, and this again for that reason prints itself deeper on the mind, because it awakens surprise that a symbol so unpretending should have such a weight of significance. Hence the reason appears why visions make their appearance in the conclusion of our book. There was in the sense declared, i. e., not so much in fact as in form, a climax in the revelations to the prophet and therefore in the disclosure to the people. Since the direct statement of his message respecting the certainty of the judgment and the ripeness of the people for it, appeared not to be enough; at last, to leave nothing undone, these things were brought under the eye in the form of plastic visions which the prophet saw and naturally repeated to his hearers. The discourses therefore now have at least a negative efficiency in the opposition to which they aroused the priest Amaziah. (It is certainly wrong therefore to refer these visions with the narrative depending on them to an earlier period than the foregoing discourses.) Thus visions occur, as we see, in one of the oldest prophets. It may be asked, why do the other older prophets have either none at all or only faint traces of them? It is hardly a sufficient reply to refer the matter to the free action of the divine Spirit. Yet this would not be incorrect if we included with it the subjective factor in the case, since men allow that it stands in close connection with the separate individuality of the prophets. Not every one of these was equally inclined to this mode of representation, but one more than another, since a certain preponderance of the imaginative faculty, a peculiar excitability of the soul, was requisite in order to fit one for seeing visions. These are found in Amos, and we can easily see a certain natural affinity between the herdsman Amos with his quick sensibilities and the formation of outward visions. As to the visions in Ezekiel and Jeremiah, we refer to the Commentary on those prophets.
4. The centre, the heart of a nation and kingdom, is found in its sanctuaries and capital. From these proceeds its life; yes, as they are, so is the life of the whole people, either sound, or diseased, or altogether rotten. If the heart is corrupt, the blow must at last fall on this, otherwise no help is possible. The sanctuary of a nation is its chief nerve. But upon this the court, the secular government, exerts a powerful influence. If it uses this influence to subdue the sanctuary into an instrument of its own plans and thus corrupts it, the whole people is corrupted; and its guilt becomes so much the greater and God’s judgment the more certain. How significant is it that the priest can oppose no contrary testimony to the prophetic word! All he can do is to denounce Amos to the king, and thus call in the secular power. Naturally enough; for he is the court-priest, and is stationed at Bethel, which is, as he says with a naive candor, “a king’s sanctuary and a seat of the kingdom.” He obviously means to say something of great moment which will awe the prophet, and is not conscious of the poverty of the claim he makes for the sanctuary. As sacred it should take its authority from God, and its highest boast should be that is a sanctuary of God. Certainly it is of no avail to root its authority in that of the great and noble, for then it becomes a mere tool of state craft. A testimony against all Cäsareopapismus, a warning to every state Church never to forget where all Church authority strikes its roots,—not in the protection of the state nor in civil privileges, but only in the Word of God; and that the highest glory even of the strongest established Church should be that it has, not the state, but God and his Word on its side.
5. “There eat thy bread!” This is certainly the main thing in the view of the idol’s high-priest. He sees in office only a means of “bread.” Therefore without scruple he ascribes the same view to Amos. But the true prophet repels the charge with dignity. He seeks not for money or means, he needs it not; he does not once claim the title of prophet, for he had nothing to do with the title. When he came forth as a prophet, it was not for the sake of the name or the office any more than it was for bread, but solely in obedience to God’s direction. But as he did not seek reward, neither did he shun danger or persecution; he knew that the divine commission to announce wrath to a godless people involved peril, but he did not therefore for-bear. He did not allow himself to be intimidated by threats. Even if men would not hear him but would try to close his mouth, he would not be silent. He must speak, because he bore a divine command.
6. Strong faith belongs to the calling of a prophet who is to announce God’s punitive wrath. And not only that; but quite independent of the duty of reproving the lofty, a high measure of faith is needed in order to maintain and firmly to utter, in the midst of a degenerate race, the conviction that God still rules and will at last vindicate his honor and his law, and show Himself as Lord and Judge. This point may be weakened by a reference to the fact that the prophets did not speak of themselves but only as organs of God, and made their announcements only by virtue of their commission. But however firmly we hold the objective character of the prophetic speech, the more we regard it on this side, yes, even the more the announcement of wrath is a literal prediction of a definite form, and kind and degree of punishment; still the less are we to overlook the subjective factor in the case. The prophets were not soulless instruments of the Holy Spirit, according to the mechanical theory of inspiration, but what they had to disclose, they themselves believed and were firmly convinced of, as was certainly the case with the herdsman of Tekoa. Their predictions of punishment in the face of a prevailing religious and moral corruption testified the strength of their theocratic conviction, and the measure of their vigorous faith, which enabled them to stand unmoved and declare with all confidence, the Lord—although He so long delays, and human sin appears to triumph—will lay a plumb-line in the midst of his people Israel, or as in chap. 8, the time is ripe for judgment. Certainly there is a reciprocal action between the objective factor and the subjective, between the divine revelation and the prophet’s degree of faith. That was on one side conditioned by this, but so, on the other, a higher measure of confidence of faith was the fruit and effect of the divine revelations to the prophets. But in any case the strength of any one’s faith who was chosen for a prophet, rooted itself in the general revelation to and in Israel, therefore especially in that which was deposited in the holy Scriptures. This school of the Spirit, consisting in the “Word of God, was, as it appears, the only school which Amos ever attended, but he showed himself a very apt scholar, he was not so much an αὐτο- as a θεοδιδακτος. He had such a firm conviction of the power and majesty of God and especially of his righteousness that he was sure that He would maintain his honor and demonstrate his government As he was thus, in the sense of 1 Cor. 1:26 ff., worthy and fit to be chosen by God for his messenger and prophet, so on the other hand that mission fully confirmed him in the assurance of faith.
[7. The latter half of this chapter (Amos 7:10–17) has been cited by one of the writers of Essays and Reviews, Prof. Jowett, as an illustration of his assertion that “the failure of a prophecy is never admitted in spite of Scripture and of history.” But wherein is the failure here? The predictions are first, the rising against the house of Jeroboam with the sword, which was fulfilled (2 Kings 15:10) in the slaughter of Jeroboam’s son and successor by Shallum; secondly, the captivity and exile of Israel, the fulfillment of which is patent; thirdly, the terrible denunciation against Amaziah, his wife and his children, the execution of which is confessedly not recorded. But this is true of the doom pronounced upon other individuals, as Shebna (Is. 22:17, 18), Ahab and Zedekiah (Jer. 29:22), Shemaiah (Jer. 29:32), Pashur (Jer. 20:6), etc. Nor is it all strange, when one considers the excessive brevity of the accounts of the later kings and revolutions. There is nothing at all impossible or improbable in the fate pronounced upon Amaziah. And “unless the execution of God’s sentence upon one of the many calf-priests in Bethel is necessarily matter of history, it has rather to be shown why it should be mentioned than why it should be omitted.” Surely the burden of proof lies upon the objector.—C.]
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
[Amos 7:1. And behold he formed (was forming) locusts. The very least things then are as much in his infinite mind as what we call the greatest. The same power of God is seen in creating the locust as the universe. But further, God was framing them for a special end, not of nature, but of his moral government in the correction of man. In this vision He opens our eyes and lets us see Himself framing the punishment for the deserts of sinners, so that when hail, mildew, caterpillars, or some hitherto unknown disease wastes our crops, we may think not of secondary causes but of our Judge. (Pusey.)
Amos 7:2. Forgive, I beseech thee. He sees sin at the bottom of the trouble, and therefore concludes that the pardon of sin must be at the bottom of the deliverance, and prays for that in the first place. Whatever calamity we are under, personal or public, the forgiveness of sin is that which we should be most earnest with God for. (M. Henry.)
Amos 7:3. The Lord repented for this. See the power of prayer! See what a blessing praying people, praying prophets are to a land! Ruin had many a time broken in, had they not stood in the breach. See how ready, how swift God is to show mercy. (M. Henry.)
Amos 7:4. God called to contend by fire. Man by rebellion challenges God’s omnipotence. God sooner or later accepts the challenge. If man escapes with impunity, then he had chosen well in rejecting God. If not, what folly and misery was his short-sighted choice; short-lived in its gain; its loss, eternal! Fire stands as the symbol and summary of God’s most terrible judgments. It spares nothing, leaves nothing, not even the outward form of what it destroys. (Pusey.)—C.]
Amos 7:5. We should pray even for those who in our judgment are worthy of punishment. We may at least implore God’s mercy on their behalf. Perhaps He will forgive and grant space for repentance. He desires not the death of the sinner, but that he turn and live. On this ground they who know the mind of God, always intercede even for the worst of sinners; although if the judgment falls, they humbly adore the holiness of God’s ways but do not murmur.
[Amos 7:7. The Lord stood—with a plumb-line. There was so to speak an architectural design in God’s work of destroying Israel no less than in his former favor in building him up. God does everything according to measure, number and weight. As one said of old, “The Deity is a perfect geometrician.” (Wordsworth.)
Amos 7:10. Amos has conspired, etc. Amaziah, the high-priest, thought that the craft whereby he had his wealth was endangered. To Jeroboam, however, he says nothing of these fears, but makes it an affair of state. He takes the king by what he thought to be his weak side, fear for his own power or life. Similar was the experience of Jeremiah, of our Lord and of his Apostles. And so the heathen who were ever conspiring against the Roman emperors went on accusing the early Christians as disloyal, factious, impious, because they did not offer sacrifice for the emperors to false gods, but prayed for them to the true. (Pusey.)
Amos 7:11. On the supposition that Amaziah wilfully distorted Amos’s words, the same writer remarks justly enough, “A lie mixed with truth is the most deadly form of falsehood, the truth serving to gain admittance for the lie and to color it. In slander, and in heresy which is slander against God, truth is used to commend the falsehood and falsehood to destroy the truth.” So on the latter clause, “Amaziah omits both the ground of the threat and the hope of escape urged upon them. He omits too the prophet’s intercession for his people and selects the one prediction which could give a mere political character to the whole. Suppression of truth is a yet subtler character of falsehood.”
Amos 7:12. Go, eat thy bread. Do thou live by thy trade there, and let me live by my trade here. (Jerome). Worldly men always think that those whose profession is religious make a gain of godliness. Interested people cannot conceive of one disinterested; nor the insincere of one sincere. (Pusey.)
Amos 7:13. It is the king’s chapel, etc. All claims of reverence for a church simply and merely as a national establishment, independently of divine institution, are no better than these assertions of Amaziah. The first royal propounder of what is now called Erastianism was, as far as we know, Jeroboam I.; the first priestly advocate of it, as far as we know, was Amaziah. Jerome, in his note here, applies these words to the Arians who appealed to Arian emperors, supporting their dog-mas, and persecuting the orthodox teachers, by the secular arm. When in the fourth century Catholic bishops of Spain invoked the power of the Emperor Maximus and would have put the Priscillianists to death, they were sternly rebuked and opposed by the saintly and apostolic bishop, Martin of Tours. (Wordsworth.)
Amos 7:14. I was a herdman. One of that class to which Abraham and Moses and David had belonged; but not rich in fields and herds, in men-servants and maid-servants, like the first; nor learned in the wisdom of the Egyptians, like the second; nor with any, the most distant intimation that he might one day be the shepherd of a people, like the third. (F. D. Maurice.)
Amos 7:15. The Lord took me,—the Lord said unto me. As the Apostles, when forbidden to teach in the name of Jesus, answered, we must obey God rather than man, so Amos, when forbidden by the idol-priests to prophecy, not only prophecies, showing that he feared God bidding more than their forbidding, but boldly and freely denounces the punishment of him who endeavored to forbid and hinder the Word of God. (Jerome.)
Amos 7:16. Drop nothing, etc. God’s Word comes as a gentle dew or soft rain, not beating down, but refreshing; not sweeping away as a storm, but sinking in and softening even hard ground, all but the rock; gentle so as they can bear it. God’s Word was to men such as they were to it; dropping like the dew on those who received it: wearing, to those who hardened themselves against it. (Pusey.)
Amos 7:17. Thy wife shall be dishonored. Thou teachest idolatry which is spiritual harlotry; and thou shalt be punished by harlotry in thine own house for thy sin. (Wordsworth.)—C.]
Amos 7:1.—כֹּה points to what follows. יוֹצֵ־ has Jehovah for its subject [omitted because אֲדֹנָי יְחֶֹוִה immediately preceded it. Jehovah, as usual, takes the pointing of אֱלֹהִים when אֲדֹנַי precedes it. נֹּבַי, not a plural, but a singular used collectively, is usually rendered locusts, but its precise origin is still in dispute.]
Amos 7:2.—עֵשֶׂב, not grass, as in the A. V., but all vegetable growth. מִי, literally, “as who”=quails, i.e., how? יקוּם, stand, i.e., endure. [So Keil and Fürst.]
Amos 7:3.—עַל־זֹאת = that which was threatened in the vision. קטוֹן, small = weak.
Amos 7:4—תְּהוֹם רבָּה, elsewhere the ocean, e.g., Gen. 7:11; Is. 51:10. In Gen. 1:2, it denotes the immeasurable deep at the beginning of the creation. הַהֵלֶֽק, not “a part,” but the portion or inheritance.
Amos 7:7.—אְנָךְ, plumb-line. חוֹמַת אְַנָךְ = a perpendicular wall. [Fürst follows the LXX., Sym., and Syr. in making אנךְ, ἀδαμας, a pointed hook for destroying, and the wall, a pointed wall, i. e., rising up as a pinnacle.]
Amos 7:9.—בָמוֹת, heights used for idolatrous altars and shrines. יִשְׂהָק for יִצְחָק, so also in Amos 7:16. Jer. 33:26; Ps. 105:9 = Israel.
Amos 7:10.—קָשֵׁר, to form a conspiracy.
Amos 7:13.—מִקְדָשׁ, sanctuary.
Amos 7:14.—בלֵס. Perhaps from a root meaning to nip or scratch (XLL., κνιξω), because it was common so to treat the mulberry or sycamore fruit to make it ripen the sooner [or a denom. from the Arabic name for the mulberry fig. (Keil); but Fürst says that in that case שִׁקמִים would not be added to it]. The meaning is, one that gathers figs and lives upon them.
Amos 7:16.—הַטִּירּ, to drop, is used in the sense of prophesying, also in Micah 2:6, 11, and Ezek. 21:2, 7. The usage is borrowed from Deut. 32:2. “My teaching shall drop as the rain.”
Thus hath the Lord GOD shewed unto me; and, behold, he formed grasshoppers in the beginning of the shooting up of the latter growth; and, lo, it was the latter growth after the king's mowings.