And the mountains shall be molten under him, and the valleys shall be cleft, as wax before the fire, and as the waters that are poured down a steep place.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)The mountains shall be molten.—The manifestations of the presence of God are taken from the description of the giving of the Law, when “the hills melted like wax at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth” (Psalm 97:5). Dean Stanley refers the imagery to the memorable earthquake mentioned in Amos 1:1 :—“Mountains and valleys are cleft asunder, and melt as in a furnace; the earth heaving like the rising waters of the Nile; the sea bursting over the land; the ground shaking and sliding as, with a succession of shocks, its solid framework reels to and fro like a drunkard” (Jewish Church, Lect. 37).Deuteronomy 4:24, and at this same time said by Isaiah; "For behold, the Lord will come with fire ... to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire" Isaiah 66:15.
And the valleys shall be cleft as wax before the fire - It seems natural that the mountains should be cleft; but the valleys , so low already! This speaks of a yet deeper dissolution; of lower depths beyond our sight or knowledge, into the very heart of the earth. Sanch.: "This should they fear, who will to be so low; who, so far from lifting themselves to heavenly things, pour out their affections on things of earth, meditate on and love earthly things, and forgetful of the heavenly, choose to fix their eyes on earth. These the wide gaping of the earth which they loved, shall swallow: to them the cleft valleys shall open an everlasting sepulchre, and, having received them, shall never part with them."
Highest and lowest, first and last, shall perish before Him. The pride of the highest, kings and princes, priests and judges, shall sink and melt away beneath the weight and Majesty of His glory; the hardness of the lowest, which would not open itself to Him, shall be cleft in twain before Him.
As wax before the fire - (See Psalm 97:5), melting away before Him by whom they were not softened, vanishing into nothingness. Metals melt, changing their form only; wax, so as to cease to be.
As the waters poured down - (As a stream or cataract, so the word means .)
A steep place - Down to the very edge, it is borne along, one strong, smooth, unbroken current; then, at once, it seems to gather its strength, for one great effort. But to what end? To fall, with the greater force, headlong, scattered in spray, foam and froth; dissipated, at times, into vapor, or reeling in giddy eddies, never to return. In Judea, where the autumn rains set in with great vehemence, the waters must have been often seen pouring in their little tumultuous brooklets down the mountain side , hastening to disappear, and disappearing the faster, the more vehemently they rolled along . Both images exhibit the inward emptiness of sinners, man's utter helplessness before God. They need no outward impulse to their destruction. Jerome: "Wax endureth not the nearness of the fire, and the waters are carried headlong. So all of the ungodly, when the Lord cometh, shall be dissolved and disappear." At the end of the world, they shall be gathered into bundles, and cast away.
as wax—(Ps 97:5; compare Isa 64:1-3). The third clause, "as wax," &c., answers to the first in the parallelism, "the mountains shall be molten"; the fourth, "as the waters," &c., to the second, "the valleys shall be cleft." As wax melts by fire, so the mountains before God, at His approach; and as waters poured down a steep cannot stand but are diffused abroad, so the valleys shall be cleft before Jehovah.The mountains shall be molten: if literally understood, we know it hath been so: when God will kindle that fire which shall burn up the earth, and the works of it, as he will when he cometh finally to judge the world, it shall be done again. But figuratively mountains are mighty states and kingdoms, flourishing with prosperity, and which do think the foundation of this sure as mountains. So Amos 6:1,2 Hab 3:6 Isaiah 2:14, Or possibly these mountains may be, by a synecdoche, put for those who dwell on them, mountaineers, who were usually more fierce, secure hardy, and of difficult access, and therefore less regardful of threats and punishments.
Shall be molten under him: which way soever you take mountains, yet the effect of God’s powerful anger and justice shall be this, they shall be no more able to bear his indignation, or withstand it, than that which like wax melts before a strong fire.
The valleys; which either are emblems of the lower sort of men, or the men that dwell in the valleys with their cities built there, which might hope to escape the storm, lying more under covert. But such shall be the sweeping, searching, and rapid storm of God’s judgments, that no places, no persons shall either withstand or divert them.
Shall be cleft; or rent in sunder, broken up, as the word Genesis 7:11, and slide away.
As wax, which doth easily and speedily dissolve, and run before the fire.
And as the waters that are poured down a steep place; which immediately spreads itself and runs down the precipice, not able to keep together in one body, but scattered one part from other, loseth itself without remedy; so shall the glory and strength of Samaria melt away before the fire of God’s displeasure executed by Shalmaneser, and by Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar on Judah.
and the valleys shall be cleft: have chasms made in them by the melting of the mountains, or by the flow of water from the hills: these may design the lower sort of people, who shall have their share in this calamity; the inhabitants of the valleys and country villages; who, though mean and low, shall be lower still, and lose that little substance, that liberty and those privileges, they had; as valleys may be cleft, and open, and sink into the lower parts of the earth; so it is signified that these people should be in a more depressed state and condition:
as wax before the fire; melts, and cannot stand the force of it; so the mountains should melt at the presence of the Lord; and kingdoms and states, and the greatest and mightiest of men in them, would not be able to stand before the fierceness of his wrath; see Psalm 68:2;
and as the waters that are poured down a steep place; that run with great swiftness, force, and rapidity, and there is no stopping them; so should the judgments of God come down upon the lower sort of people, the inhabitants of the valleys; neither high nor low would escape the indignation of the Lord, or be able to stand against it, or stand up under it.And the mountains shall be molten under him, and the valleys shall be cleft, as wax before the fire, and as the waters that are poured down a steep place.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)4. the mountains shall be molten …] The figure is that of a storm, but no ordinary storm. Lightning descends, and dissolves the very mountains, and torrents of rain scoop out channels in the valleys. Similar symbolic descriptions occur in Jdg 5:5, Isaiah 64:1, Habakkuk 3:6; comp. Exodus 19:18.Verse 4. - The description of God's advent to judgment is founded on the idea of a terrible storm and earthquake, perhaps accompanied with volcanic eruption, though evidence of such eruptions in the historical period is not forthcoming. The description recalls the awful revelation at Sinai (Exodus 19.). Shall be molten; either by the lightning or the showers of rain that descend from heaven. The mountains, the type of stability and strength, fall away at the presence of the Judge. Septuagint, σαλευθήσεται, "shall be shaken;" Vulgate, consumentur (Judges 5:4, 5; Psalm 18:7, etc.; Psalms 68:8; 97:4, 5; Amos 9:5). Be cleft; Septuagint, τακήσονται, "shall melt." The valleys shall be hollowed out into channels by the force of the water, which falls in torrents. As wax (Psalm 68:2; Psalm 97:5). This belongs to the first clause, "the mountains," etc. As waters. This belongs to the second clause. The cloven plains shall melt away as waters disappear down a precipice. The idea that underlies this description is that the inanimate creation shares in the effects of the judgment on man, and is used as an instrument in his punishment. Amos 5:11. Therefore, because ye tread upon the poor, and take the distribution of corn from him, ye have built houses of square stones, and will not dwell therein; planted pleasant vineyards, and will not drink their wine. Amos 5:12. For I know how many are your transgressions, and how great your sins; oppressing the righteous, taking atonement money; and ye bow down the poor in the gate." However natural it may seem to take מוכיח and דּבר תּמים in Amos 5:10 as referring to prophets, who charge the ungodly with their acts of unrighteousness, as Jerome does, this explanation is precluded not only by bassha‛ar (in the gate), since the gate was not the meeting-place of the people where the prophets were accustomed to stand, but the place where courts of judgment were held, and all the public affairs of the community discussed (see at Deuteronomy 21:19); but also by the first half of Amos 5:11, which presupposes judicial proceedings. Mōkhı̄ăch is not merely the judge who puts down unjust accusers, but any one who lifts up his voice in a court of justice against acts of injustice (as in Isaiah 29:21). דּבר תּמים, he who says what is blameless, i.e., what is right and true: this is to be taken generally, and not to be restricted to the accused who seeks to defend his innocence. תּעב is a stronger expression than שׂנא. The punishment for this unjust oppression of the poor will be the withdrawal of their possessions. The ἁπ. λεγ. bōshēs is a dialectically different form for בוסס, from בוּס, to trample down (Rashi, Kimchi), analogous to the interchange of שׁריון and סריון, a coat of mail, although as a rule שׁ passes into ס, and not ס into שׁ. For the derivation from בושׁ, according to which בושׁס would stand for בושׁשׁ (Hitzig and Tuch on Genesis p. 85), is opposed both to the construction with על, and also to the circumstance that בּושׁשׁ means to delay (Exodus 32:1; Judges 5:28); and the derivation suggested by Hitzig from an Arabic verb, signifying to carry one's self haughtily towards others, is a mere loophole. Taking a gift of corn from the poor refers to unjust extortion on the part of the judge, who will only do justice to a poor man when he is paid for it. The main clause, which was introduced with lâkhēn, is continued with בּתּי גזית: "thus have ye built houses of square stones, and shall not dwell therein;" for "ye shall not dwell in the houses of square stones which ye have built." The threat is taken from Deuteronomy 28:30, Deuteronomy 28:39, and sets before them the plundering of the land and the banishment of the people. Houses built of square stones are splendid buildings (see Isaiah 9:9). The reason for this threat is given in Amos 5:12, where reference is made to the multitude and magnitude of the sins, of which injustice in the administration of justice is again held up as the chief sin. The participles צררי and לקחי are attached to the suffixes of פּשׁעיכם and חטּאתיכם: your sins, who oppress the righteous, attack him, and take atonement money, contrary to the express command of the law in Numbers 35:31, to take no kōpher for the soul of a murderer. The judges allowed the rich murderer to purchase exemption from capital punishment by the payment of atonement money, whilst they bowed down the right of the poor. Observe the transition from the participle to the third person fem., by which the prophet turns away with disgust from these ungodly judges. Bowing down the poor is a concise expression for bowing down the right of the poor: compare Amos 2:7 and the warnings against this sin (Exodus 23:6; Deuteronomy 16:19).
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