Matthew Poole's Commentary
Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan, that are in the mountain of Samaria, which oppress the poor, which crush the needy, which say to their masters, Bring, and let us drink.Israel reproved for oppression, Amos 4:1-3; for idolatry, Amos 4:4,5; and for their incorrigibleness, Amos 4:6-13.
This verse is an introduction to all that follows in this chapter.
Hear attentively, and consider the consequences of it; weigh both what and whose it is that is spoken. This word; prophecy, or sermon of reproof and threatening: see Amos 3:1.
Ye kine of Bashan: so Amos, bred among cattle, compares the mighty, proud, wanton, and oppressive riflers of Israel to those full-fed, strong, and wanton beasts, which in the herds did push at, hurt, and disturb the weaker cattle. Some will by this understand the court ladies of Israel in those times; but this perhaps is too nice: though, as in Ahab’s time Jezebel was at court, and a promoter of oppression and violence, so there might be in aftertimes some like her, and perhaps these may be intended secondarily; yet surely Amos intends the great men and governors, whom he calls kine of Bashan, a fruitful country, of which see Ezekiel 39:18 Nahum 1:4.
In the mountain of Samaria: in a decorum to his first allusion he calls their places of power, authority, and office in the kingdom of Israel, mountains; for as those beasts grazing on mountains grew fat, so these men by their fees, perquisites, and bribes grew insolent and mischievous: see Amos 3:9.
Which oppress the poor; the meaner sort of the people, the commonalty, under their jurisdiction, by colour of law.
Which crush the needy; by force and open violence break in pieces the afflicted, who have neither power nor friend to relieve them.
Which say to their masters; husbands, say some, so the Hebrew will bear; or it may refer to some of the greatest officers in Israel, who had inferior officers under them, or the masters of the poor.
Bring; get us commission, or bring them into our court and office.
Let us drink; we will get by them to feast on and revel in drink.
The Lord GOD hath sworn by his holiness, that, lo, the days shall come upon you, that he will take you away with hooks, and your posterity with fishhooks.I have often told you that God had spoken, now I assure you that the mighty and eternal God hath sworn the thing, and you must therefore needs conclude it sure and certain.
He hath sworn by his holiness, by himself, as he is the holy God, and cannot lie: see Psalm 89:35.
The days of darkness, slaughter, famine, desolation, and captivity, threatened against you, shall come upon you, oppressors that crush the poor.
He will take; God by the Assyrian army under Shalmaneser, nay, before that time you shall be taken, as fish are taken with the hook, during the intestine wars that are coming upon you.
You, who now live, and hear the word of Amos and Hoses, but notwithstanding do continue to act the same violence still.
With hooks, or thorns, as the Hebrew, with which they did pierce the greater fish, before they had the skill of making iron darts, as some observe.
Your posterity; the children of these oppressors.
With fish-hooks; shall be taken as silly fish, and as easily carried away; the enemy shall with delight insnare and destroy them.
And ye shall go out at the breaches, every cow at that which is before her; and ye shall cast them into the palace, saith the LORD.And ye, kine of Bashan, oppressors distressed by the just hand of God, and by the violent hand of your enemy, shall go out, endeavour to make your escape by flight, at the breaches, which the besieging enemy made in your walls, when Samaria is besieged.
Every cow at that which is before her: it shall be a universal flight, and with great consternation, they not able to forecast where the safest, but taking which way is readiest.
Ye shall cast them into the palace; either cast away all the riches and ornaments of your palaces, or the prey and bribes you had laid up there, or ye shall abandon the palaces ye dwelt in.
Come to Bethel, and transgress; at Gilgal multiply transgression; and bring your sacrifices every morning, and your tithes after three years:Come to Beth-el, the known place of the moscholatria, calf-worship: see Amos 3:14.
And transgress: this clears it to be an irony, either throwing them up to their obstinate way of sinning, giving them over as hopeless and incorrigible sinners, or deriding their trust and dependence on idols, to which they sacrificed at Beth-el: See what will be the issue hereof, how you shall succeed herein.
At Gilgal multiply transgression; Gilgal was a place also where much idolatry was acted: see Hosea 4:15 9:15 12:11. Since you will not be warned, go on, try whether God likes your sacrifices there as well as you like them, and whether they will be a means to preserve from judgments, or sins hastening judgments’ on you.
Bring your sacrifices every morning: in the same irony God doth by Amos express his own displeasure, reprove their sin, and threaten it, though they imitate the instituted worship at Jerusalem, Exodus 29:38,39 Num 28:3,4.
And your tithes after three years; God had, Deu 14:28, commanded every third year that all the tithe of that year should be brought, and laid up in a public storehouse; to this law, with the same irony, doth the prophet allude here.
And offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, and proclaim and publish the free offerings: for this liketh you, O ye children of Israel, saith the Lord GOD.Offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven; as all the rest of your will-worship, so this also is against the express law, Leviticus 2:11, but yet you will persist in it; and do so at your peril, try whether it end in good to you.
Proclaim and publish the free-offerings; publicly, frequently, and earnestly persuade your people to voluntary sacrifices, in which you think to please me; but you offer them all to idols; this your religion is impiety.
This liketh you; as you invented it, so it pleaseth you, and you will not be reclaimed.
Ye children of Israel; ye idolatrous, apostate Israelites.
Saith the Lord God; for these you shall be punished by the Lord your God.
And I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and want of bread in all your places: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD.And I, the Lord, who gave many blessings to win you to repentance, hath also tried what might be done by judgments.
Cleanness of teeth: this is a description of famine by one effect of it; where meat fails the teeth are not fouled, as where it is eaten.
In all your cities; it was a general famine, and probably it was that long famine, 2 Kings 8:1.
Want of bread in all your places; if there were some bread, yet it was very scarce every where: this passage explains the former.
Yet have ye not returned unto me; yet this starving people repented not of their idolatries, nor cast off their idols; left not their sins of oppression and cruelty, &c.; see Joel 2:12,13; what you did like returning was partial and hypocritical, and not lasting.
And also I have withholden the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest: and I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city: one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered.I also have withholden the rain from you; your vanities could not, and because ye did so greatly sin against me I would not, give you rain; I forbade the clouds from above, and they, thus prohibited, did withhold their rain, as I threatened, Deu 28:23,24.
When there were yet three months to the harvest; at a season when your country most usually had, and as then it ever did most need, rain: see Joel 2:23. Three months drought then, as it was unusual in the course of nature, so it was an extraordinary curse and punishment on them. That you might see my hand in it and be instructed, I gave rain to one city, and withheld rain from the next neighbour city; nay, one part of a field, the same field, was watered and flourished, another part dry and withered. All this to convince and turn you.
So two or three cities wandered unto one city, to drink water; but they were not satisfied: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD.Two or three, a certain for an uncertain number,
cities, the places for the inhabitants, by a usual metonymy,
wandered unto one city to drink water: it seems to imply that they travelled at some uncertainty, as they do who wander and rove about. It is not unlikely but that in the prophet’s times the story might be well known and fresh in memory, though here no mention is made of these cities.
But they were not satisfied; either that city they went to had not enough for them, or durst not part with it; or, though they quenched their thirst, yet because they must return back to their own dry and waterless cities, or because God withdrew his blessing, they were never the better, or else not much or long the better.
Yet have ye not returned unto me: see Amos 4:6.
I have smitten you with blasting and mildew: when your gardens and your vineyards and your fig trees and your olive trees increased, the palmerworm devoured them: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD.To other judgments inflicted on you I have added this also, my hand hath been heavy upon you,
I have smitten you with blasting; the excessive heat and drought have turned your corn into black and parched smut or ashes;
and mildew; a bane to corn through too much wet; the seasons were extremely unkind, and all spoiled with it.
When your gardens, about your houses for convenience and pleasure.
Vineyards; planted for your support and to enrich you, to cheer your heart.
Fig trees; which were excellent, of very great use and profit in those countries.
Olive trees; a principal commodity arose from their oliveyards: all that was for delight, profit, and necessary use.
Increased, when they were seemingly most fruitful.
The palmer-worm: see Joel 1:3,10-12.
Devoured; eat up all, as is the manner of that worm.
I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt: your young men have I slain with the sword, and have taken away your horses; and I have made the stink of your camps to come up unto your nostrils: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD.I have sent; you have died of plague, but I commissioned the disease, I sent it, and it swept you away in such manner that any observant eye might have seen the hand of God against you in it, and might have read the commission.
The pestilence; arrow of God, that walketh in the dark, that wasteth at noon-day.
After the manner of Egypt; in which there was somewhat extraordinary, it swept away both men and beasts, say some; probably it was this disease which by the stroke of the angel seized the first-born in Egypt. Others interpret this with particular respect to the death of them in going down to seek aid of Egypt, or in their return from Egypt, as if the prophet minded them of many that died on the way to or from Egypt; but the phrase in the way is better rendered by our translators after the manner.
Your young men have I slain; God was their enemy, and slew their young men, the choice of their strength and hope.
With the sword; in war, and by their neighbouring enemies in Jehoahaz’s time, and Syrians since that too, 2 Kings 13:3, and 2 Kings 15 2Ki 16, and 2 Kings 17 compared.
Have taken away your horses; not by murrain, but by what was worse to you, by the hand of those who did ride them; and these being slain the horses were taken by the enemy, and added to their strength, and your danger.
I have made the stink of our camps to come up unto your nostrils; so great slaughter hath been made in your camp, that there were not sufficient to bury the slain before they stunk and offended you.
I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD.Overthrown; utterly consumed and destroyed your houses and goods.
Some of you; though it was a total consumption to those it fell on, yet it was but on some, who might be wantings to others, and by which others might see how easy it was for God to destroy them all.
As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah: we no where else read of such fire from heaven, yet it is possible some such judgment might fall on some of their cities, and not be recorded; but I do rather understand it proverbially spoken, denoting most grievous and desolating fires, or judgments.
Ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning; such of you as escaped were yet in very great danger, and as firebrands in midst of the fire, where you were with others burning till infinite mercy saved a remnant, and plucked you out.
Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.Therefore, because none of my former methods have succeeded, as in reason might have been expected,
thus will I do unto thee, in some more terrible manner will I now proceed against thee, O Israel; you of the ten tribes.
Because I will do this unto thee, and therefore my last advice to you is to consider it well; if you think well of it, possibly you may see and prevent the threatened evil.
Prepare to meet thy God; if you humble yourselves, and so return, it will be mercy to you; but if you proudly and sinfully refuse to return, know ye that you must perish, for you can never make good your cause against God, and yet you must meet him, for he will ere he hath done with you end the controversy.
Thy God; who once was thy God, and whom thou still ownest for thy God, and who would yet be thine if thou repent.
For, lo, he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought, that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, The LORD, The God of hosts, is his name.To move them to act for their safety, the prophet tells them how great and dreadful God is, the most dreadful and terrible enemy, but the most desirable friend.
He that formeth the mountains; when there was not a mountain or hill, or the least dust of either, thy God, O Israel, formed them; and it is wisdom to return to him, for he can remove difficulties and pressures were they as heavy as mountains, and so he can mend all with you quickly; and if your confidences in sinful ways were as strong as mountains, he can overthrow them: return therefore and repent.
Createth; giveth being by an almighty will.
The wind; which for its instability seems of contrary nature to mountains, which doth shake them and overturn foundations; that wind which we feel and hear, though we see it not, that makes hideous noises, and works dreadful effects. The storms you are threatened with, O Israel, are like the wind, dreadful, irresistible; but, as the wind, raised and ruled by God, who can soon with one word lay them all asleep: return therefore to him.
And declareth unto man what is his thought: think not by any counsels to prevent what God determines against an impenitent and sinful nation, as his power is infinite in creating, his wisdom is infinite too and unsearchable, and he can and will take sinners in their incorrigible wickednesses and punish them: be wise, therefore, and return to him by repentance.
That maketh the morning darkness; can as easily turn outward prosperity into extreme adversity as he can turn a glorious morning into a dark, dismal, and overclouded day, and so will do against you if you repent not; and can turn a cloudy morning into brightness, and misery into happiness, if you repent.
And treadeth upon the high places of the earth; can tread under foot the idols that are worshipped on high places of the earth, and trample on high and mighty potentates, exalted above ordinary men as highest hills are above lowest valleys.
The Lord; who alone am the Lord, the eternal and mighty God.
The God of hosts is his name; whose sovereign power and command all creatures obey, and act for or against us as he willeth.