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:
Verses 1-3. - Judgment on Moab. Verse 1. - Moab. The prophet now denounces the other nation connected by ties of blood with Israel (see on Amos 1:13). Moab's hostility had been shown in the hiring of Balsam to curse the Israelites, and in seducing them to idolatry (Numbers 22-25:3). He was their oppressor in the time of the Judges (Judges 3:12); and David had to take most stringent measures against him (2 Samuel 8:2). The Moabites joined in a league against Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:22), and later against Jehoiakim (2 Kings 24:2), and, as we see by the inscription on the Moabite Stone, were always ready to profit by the disasters or weakness of the chosen people. "I erected this stone," says Mesha, "to Chemosh at Kirkha, a stone of salvation, for he saved me from all despoilers, and made me see my desire upon all mine enemies, even upon Omri, King of Israel." And then he goes on to recount his victories. He burned the bones of the King of Edom into lime. This profanation of the corpse of the King of Edom (see 2 Kings 23:16; Jeremiah 8:1, 2) is not mentioned in the historical books. Some of the older commentators, as Tirinus and Corn. a Lapide, think that the prophet wishes to show that the sympathy of God extends beyond the covenant people, and that he punishes wrongs inflicted even on heathen nations. But as in the case of the other nations, Amos reproves only crimes committed against Israel or Judah, so the present outrage must have the same connection. The reference to the King of Moab's sacrifice of "his eldest son," even if we suppose (which is improbable) the son of the King of Edom to be meant, is plainly inapplicable (2 Kings 3:27), as the offence regarded the king himself, and not his son, and the expression, "burned into lime," can hardly be thought to refer to a human sacrifice. The act mentioned probably occurred during the time that the Edomites joined Jehoram and Jehoshaphat in the league against Mesha, the King of Moab (2 Kings 3:7, 9), the author of the inscription on the celebrated stone erected by him at Dibon. Unfortunately, the last lines of that inscription, describing the war against the Edomites, are lost. The paragraph that remains is this: "And Chemosh said to me, Go down, make war against Horonaim [i.e. the men of Edom], and take... Chemosh... in my days. Wherefore I made... year ... and I..." The Jewish tradition, quoted by Jerome, tells that after this war the Moabites, in revenge for the assistance which the King of Edom had given to the Israelites, dug up and dishonoured his bones. Edom was then in vassalage to Israel, but regained its independence some ten years later (2 Kings 8:20). The sacrilegious act was meant to redound to the disgrace of Israel
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:
Verse 2. - Kirioth; cities, and so taken as an appellative by the Septuagint translators, τῶν πόλεων αὐτῆς: but it is doubtless a proper name of one of the chief Moabite towns (Jeremiah 48:24, 41). Keil, after Burckhardt, identifies it with the decayed town of Kereyat, or Korriat; others, with Ar, or Kir, the old capital (Isaiah 15:1). The plural termination of the word,like Athenae, Thebae, etc., may denote a double city - upper and lower, or old and new. Moab shall die. The nation is personified. With tumult; caused by war (comp. Jeremiah 48:45, and the prophecy of Balaam, Numbers 24:17). Septuagint, ἐν ἀδυναμίᾳ, "in weakness." With shouting. Omitted by the Vulgate (see on Amos 1:14). Trumpet (Amos 3:6; Jeremiah 4:19). Trochon cites Virgil, 'AEneid,' 2:313, "Exoritur clamorque virum clangorque tubarum," "Rises the shout of men and trumpets' blare."
And I will cut off the judge from the midst thereof, and will slay all the princes thereof with him, saith the LORD.
Verse 3. - The judge; shophet, probably here a synonym for "king" (comp. Micah 5:1). it implies the chief magistrate, like the Carthaginian sufes, which is the same word. There is no ground for deducing, as Hitzig and Ewald do, from the use of this form that Moab had no king at this time. The country was conquered by the Chaldeans, and thenceforward sank into insignificance (Jeremiah 48; Ezekiel 25:8-11).
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:
Verses 4, 5. - § 2. Judah is summoned to judgment, the prophet thus passing from alien nations, through the most favoured people, to Israel, the subject of his prophecy. Verse 4. - They have despised the Law of the Lord. The other nations are denounced for their offences against God's people; Judah is sentenced for her offences against God himself. The former likewise had offended against the law of conscience, natural religion; the latter against the written Law, revealed religion. By thus denouncing Judah, Amos shows his perfect impartiality. The Law, Torah, is the general name for the whole body of precepts and commandments, chuqqim, moral and ceremonial. Their lies; Vulgate, idola sua, which is the sense, though not the translation, of the word. Idols are so called as being nonentities in themselves, and deceiving those who trust in them. "We know," says St. Paul (1 Corinthians 8:4). "that an idol is nothing in the world." The Septuagint gives, τὰ μάταια αὐτῶν α} ἐποίησαν, "their vain things which they made." Their fathers have walked. This is the usual expression for attachment to idolatrous practices. From this error the Israelites were never weaned till their return from the penal Captivity.
But I will send a fire upon Judah, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem.
Verse 5. - The destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans is here briefly foretold (Jeremiah 17:27; Hosea 8:14; 2 Kings 25:9, 10).
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;
Verses 6-16. -
3. Summons and general denunciation of Israel for injustice, cruelty, incest, luxury, and idolatry. Verse 6. - They sold the righteous for silver. The first charge against Israel is perversion of justice. The judges took bribes and condemned the righteous, i.e. the man whose cause was good. Pusey thinks that the literal selling of debtors by creditors, contrary to the Law (Exodus 21:7; Leviticus 25:39; Nehemiah 5:5), is meant (comp. Amos 8:6 and Matthew 18:25). The needy for a pair of shoes. For the very smallest bribe they betray the cause of the poor (comp. Ezekiel 13:19); though, as sandals were sometimes of very costly materials (Song of Solomon 7:1; Ezekiel 16:10; Judith 16:9), the expression might mean that they sold justice to obtain an article of luxury. But the form of expression is opposed to this interpretation.
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:
Verse 7. - That pant after the dust of the earth on the head of the poor. This is the second charge - oppression of the poor. The obscure expression in the text is capable of two explanations. Hitzig, Pusey, Trochon, assume that its meaning is that in their avarice and cupidity the usurers or tyrannous rich men grudge even the dust which the poor man strews upon his head in token of his sorrow at being brought to so low a state. But this seems unnatural and farfetched, and scarcely in harmony with the simple style of Amos. The other explanation, supported by Kimchi, Sehegg, Keil, and Knabenbauer, is preferable. These oppressors desire eagerly to see the poor crushed to the earth, or so miserable as to scatter dust on their heads (comp. 1 Samuel 4:12; 2 Samuel 1:2; Job 2:12). The poor (dal, not the same word as in ver. 6); depressed, as brought low in condition. The Septuagint joins this with the previous clause, "And the poor for sandals, the things that tread on the dust of the earth, and smote on the heads of the needy." The Vulgate gives, Qui conterunt super pulverem terrae capita pauperum, "Who bruise the heads of the poor on the dust of the earth." Turn aside the way of the meek. They thwart and hinder their path of life, and force them into crooked and evil ways. Or way, according to Kimchi, may mean "judicial process," as Proverbs 17:23. This gives, to the clause much the same meaning as ver. 6. The meek are those who are lowly and unassuming (see note on Zephaniah 2:3). And a man and his father will go in unto the same maid; LXX., Αἰσεπορεύοντο πρὸς τὴν αὐτὴν παιδίσκην. The Vulgate, which omits "the same," is closer to the Hebrew, Et filius ac pater ejus ierunt ad puellam, though the Greek doubtless gives the intended meaning. This sin, which was tantamount to incest, was virtually forbidden (Leviticus 18:8, 15; Leviticus 20:11). Some (as Ewald, Maurer, Gandell) see here an allusion to the organized prostitution in idol temples (Hosea 4:14), but this seems unnecessary. To profane my holy Name (Leviticus 22:32). Such crimes dishonoured the God who called them his people, so that to them could be applied what St. Paul says (Romans 2:24), "The Name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you" (comp. Leviticus 20:3; Ezekiel 36:20, 23). The word lemaan, "in order that," implies that they committed these sins, not through ignorance, but intentionally, to bring discredit upon the true faith and worship.
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.
Verse 8. - The prophet condemns the cruel luxury which, contrary to the Law, made the poor debtor's necessities minister to the rich man's pleasures. They lay themselves down upon; Vulgate, accubuerunt. Ewald translates, "they cast lots upon;" but the Authorized Version is supported by the highest authorities, and gives the most appropriate meaning. The Septuagint, with which the Syriac partly agrees, refers the clause to the immoralities practised in heathen worship, which the perpetrators desired to screen from observation, Τὰ ἱμάτια αὐτῶν δεσμεύοντες σχοινίοις παραπετάσματα ἐποίουν ἐχόμενα τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου, "Binding their clothes with cords, they made them curtains near the altar." This is far from the intention of the prophet's words. Upon clothes laid to pledge; or, taken in pledge. The "clothes" (begadim) are the large outer garments which formed poor men's dress by day and cover by night, and which, if pledged, were ordered to be returned by nightfall (Exodus 22:26, etc.; Deuteronomy 24:12, etc.). These the hardhearted usurers kept as their own, and reclined luxuriously upon them at their feasts and carousals in their temples. By every altar. At the sacrificial feasts in the temples at Dan and Bethel. They drink the wine of the condemned; Septuagint, οϊνον ἐκ συκοφαντιῶν. Wine obtained by fines extorted from the oppressed. So it is better to translate, "of such as have been fined." In the house of their god. The true God, whom they worshipped there under the symbol of the calf.
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.
Verse 9. - God complains of Israel's ingratitude for the favour which he had shown them. And yet I. The personal pronoun has a prominent position, and is continually repeated, to contrast God's faithfulness and the people's unthankfulness. The Amorite (Joshua 24:8, 18). The representative of the seven nations of Canaan who were dispossessed by the Israelites (Genesis 15:16; Exodus 23:27; Exodus 34:11). The hyperbolical description of this people is taken from Numbers 13:32, etc.; Deuteronomy 1:28. Thus is shown Israel's inability to cope with such an enemy, and their entire dependence on the help of the Lord. Fruit... roots. Keil explains that the posterity of a nation is regarded as its fruit, and the kernel of the nation out of which it springs as the root, comparing Job 18:16; Ezekiel 17:9; Hosea 9:16. The expression is equivalent to our "root and branch" (Malachi 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.
Verse 10. - The deliverance from Egypt and the guidance through the desert, though chronologically first, are mentioned last, as the great and culminating example of the favour and protection of God. First God prepared the land for Israel, and then trained them for possessing it. From the many allusions in this section, we see how familiar Amos and his hearers were with the history and law of the Pentateuch. Led you forty years (Deuteronomy 2:7; Deuteronomy 8:2-4).
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.
Verse 11. - Having mentioned two temporal benefits conferred on Israel, the prophet now names two spiritual favours - the presence of holy speakers and holy doers. I raised up. The prophet and the Nazarite were alike miracles of grace. The former gave heavenly teaching, the latter exhibited holiness of life. It was the Lord who gave the prophet power and authority to proclaim his will; it was the Lord who inspired the vow of the Nazarite and enabled him to carry it out in practice. Prophets. To Israel belonged Samuel (1 Samuel 1:1), Ahijah of Shiloh (1 Kings 14:2, 4), Jehu, son of Hanani (1 Kings 16:7), Elijah and Elisha, Hosea and Jonah. Young men. In the height of their passions, lusty and strong. Nazarites. The law concerning the Nazarites is given in Numbers 6. The special restrictions by which they bound themselves (viz. abstention from strong drink, from the use of the razor, and from all ritual defilement) were the outward signs of inward purity and devotion to God. Their very name implied separation from the world and devotion to God. They were, in fact, the religious of the old Law, analogous to the monks of Christian times. The vow was either temporary or lifelong. Of perpetual Nazarites we have as instances Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist. Is it not even thus? Is not the existence of prophets and Nazarites among you a proof that you are signally favoured by God, separate from other nations, and bound to be a holy people? Taking the general import of the passage and the signification of the word "Nazarite," the LXX. renders, εἰς ἀγιασμόν, "I took... and of your young men for consecration."
But ye gave the Nazarites wine to drink; and commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not.
Verse 12. - Ye gave the Nazarites wine to drink. Far from profiting by their example, or acknowledging the grace of God displayed in their holy lives, ye tried to get rid of their testimony by seducing or forcing them to break their vow. Prophesy not. Israel was impatient of the continued efforts of the prophets to warn and to win; and, unmindful of the fact that the man of God had a message which he was bound to deliver (comp. Jeremiah 20:9; 1 Corinthians 9:16), this ungrateful nation systematically tried to silence the voices which were a standing rebuke to them. Thus Amos himself was treated (Amos 7:10, etc.). (For proof of this opposition, see 1 Kings 13:4; 1 Kings 18:10, etc.; 1 Kings 19:2; 22:26, 27; 2 Kings 6:31; 2 Chronicles 25:15, 16; and comp. Isaiah 30:10, etc.; Micah 2:6; Matthew 23:37.
Behold, I am pressed under you, as a cart is pressed that is full of sheaves.
Verses 13-16 threaten severe punishment for the sins mentioned above. Verse 13. - Behold, I am pressed under you; Septuagint, κυλίω ὑποκάτω ὑμῶν, "I roll under you;" Vulgate, stridebo subter vos; Syriac, as Anglican; Hitzig, "I make it totter beneath you, as a cart tottereth;" Ewald, Keil," I will press you down, as the cart presseth;" Baur, Pusey, "I straiten myself under you, as a cart is straitened;" Revised Version, "I will press you in your place, as a cart presseth." The translation of Keil, which is that of Gesenius, is most suitable, meaning, "I will press you with the full force of war, as a loaded wain presses the earth over which it passes." The sense of the English Version is that God is burdened and wearied with their sins, as Isaiah 43:24; Malachi 2:17. The verb, being hiphil, is an objection to this explanation. The comparison of the wain is very natural in the mouth of the shepherd Amos.
Therefore the flight shall perish from the swift, and the strong shall not strengthen his force, neither shall the mighty deliver himself:
Verse 14. - In this and the two following verses Amos individualizes the "pressure" that awaits them, when every means of resistance and escape shall fail. The flight shall perish from the swift. The swift of foot shall have no time or way to flee (Jeremiah 25:35; Jeremiah 46:6), Ewald, Pusey, Gandell, for "flight" render "place of flight, refuge," as Job 11:20; Psalm 142:5; Septuagint, φυγή: Vulgate, fuga. Shall not strengthen his force. The strong man shall not be able to collect or put forth his strength to any good purpose (comp. Proverbs 24:5; Nahum 2:1). Neither shall... himself. Some of the Greek manuscripts omit this clause. Deliver himself occurs three times - a kind of solemn refrain.
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.
Verse 15. - Stand (Jeremiah 46:21; Nahum 2:8). The skilled archer shall not stand firm. That handleth the bow (Jeremiah 46:9).
And he that is courageous among the mighty shall flee away naked in that day, saith the LORD.
Verse 16. - He that is courageous among the mighty; literally, the strong in his heart; i.e. the bravest hero. The LXX. takes the words differently, Ὁ κραταιὸς οὐ μὴ εὑρήσει τὴν καρδίαν αὐτοῦ ἐν δυσαστείαις, "The strong shall not find his heart (confidence) in powers." Naked. Casting away heavy garments and weapons and whatever might hinder flight (comp. Mark 14:52; John 21:7). Virgil, 'Georg.,' 1:299, "Nudus ara, sere nudus."