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.
Verse 1-ch. 9:10. - Part III. FIVE VISIONS, WITH EXPLANATIONS, CONTINUING AND CONFIRMING THE PREVIOUS PROPHECY. The afflictions are climactic, increasing in intensity. The first two symbolize judgments which have been averted by the prophet's intercession; the third and fourth adumbrate judgments which are to fall inevitably; and the fifth proclaims the overthrow of the temple and the old theocracy. Verses 1-3. - § 1. The first vision, of locusts, represents Israel as a field eaten down to the ground, but shooting up afresh, and its utter destruction postponed at the prophet's prayer. Verse 1. - Thus hath the Lord God showed unto me. By an inward illumination (comp. vers. 4, 7; and Amos 8:1; Jeremiah 24:1-3). He formed grasshoppers; rather, locusts (Nahum 3:17). This points to the moral government of God, who uses nature to work his purposes, "wind and storm fulfilling his word." In the beginning of the shooting up of the latter growth; when the aftermath was beginning to grow under the influence of the latter rains. If the herbage was destroyed then, there would be no hope of recovery in the rest of the year. After the king's mowings. It is deduced from this expression that the first crop on certain grounds was taken for the king's use - a kind of royal perquisite, though there is no trace of such a custom found in Scripture, the passage in 1 Kings 18:5, where Ahab sends Obadiah to search for pasture, having plainly nothing to do with it; and in this case, as Keil remarks, the plague would seem to fall upon the people only, and the guilty king would have escaped. But to interpret the expression entirely in a spiritual sense, with no substantial basis, as "Jehovah's judgments," destroys the harmony of the vision, ignoring its material aspect altogether. It is quite possible that the custom above mentioned did exist, though it was probably limited to certain lands, and did not apply to the whole pasturage of the country. It is here mentioned to define the time of the plague of locusts - the time, in fact, when its ravages would be most irremediable. The LXX., by a little change of letters, render, ἰδοὺ βροῦχος εῖς Γὼν ὁ βασιλεύς, by which they imply that the locusts would be as innumerable as the army of Gog. The whole version is, "Behold, a swarm of locusts coming from the East; and behold, one caterpillar, King Gog." The vision is thought to refer to the first invasion by the Assyrians, when Pul was bribed by Menahem to withdraw.
And it came to pass, that when they had made an end of eating the grass of the land, then I said, O Lord GOD, forgive, I beseech thee: by whom shall Jacob arise? for he is small.
Verse 2. - The grass of the land. The term includes vegetables of all sorts, the feed of man and beast (Genesis 1:11; see note on Zechariah 10:1). O Lord,...forgive. The prophet is not concerned to obtain the fulfilment of his prophecy; his heartfelt sympathy for his people yearns for their pardon, as he knows that punishment and restoration depend upon moral conditions. By whom shall Jacob arise? better, How shall Jacob stand? literally, as who? If he is thus weakened, as the vision portends, how shall he endure the stroke? Small; weakened by internal commotions and foreign attack (2 Kings 15:10-16, 19).
The LORD repented for this: It shall not be, saith the LORD.
Verse 3. - Repented for this; or, concerning this destruction. The punishment was conditioned by man's behaviour or other considerations. Here the prophet's intercession abates the full infliction of the penalty (compare analogous expressions, Deuteronomy 32:36; 1 Samuel 15:11; 2 Samuel 24:16; Jeremiah 18:8; Jeremiah 42:10; Jonah 3:10, where see note). Amos may have had in memory the passage in Joel 2:13. The LXX. here and in ver. 6 has Μετανόησον Κύριε ἐπὶ τούτῳ καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ ἔσται λέγει Κύριος, "Repent, O Lord, for this; and this shall not be, saith the Lord." Hence some early commentators gathered that the prophet's intercession was rejected; but the words do not necessarily bear that sense (see St. Cyril Alex. and Theodoret, in loc.). It shall not be. This respite refers to the retreat of the Assyrians under Pul, the usurping monarch who assumed the name of Tiglath-Pileser II. (2 Kings 15:17, etc.). Some commentators consider the judgment to be literally plague of locusts; but this is not probable.
Thus hath the Lord GOD shewed unto me: and, behold, the Lord GOD called to contend by fire, and it devoured the great deep, and did eat up a part.
Verses 4-6. - § 2. The second vision devouring fire, represents a more severe judgment than the preceding one, involving greater consequences, but still one which was again modified by the prayers of the righteous prophet. Verse 4. - Called to contend by fire; Septuaguint, ἐκάλεσε τὴν δίκην ἐν πυρί, "called for judgment by fire;" Vulgate, vocabat judicium ad ignem. God called the people to try their cause with him by sending fire as a punishment among them (comp. Isaiah 66:16; Ezekiel 38:22); and in the vision the fire is represented as so vehement that it devoured the great deep, drank up the very ocean itself (Genesis 7:11; Isaiah 51:10); or the subterranean fountains and springs, as Genesis 49:25. And did eat up a part; τὴν μερίδα κυρίου (Septuagint). This version takes eth-hacheleq as the "inheritance" or "portion" of the Lord, i.e. the land of Israel (Jeremiah 12:10); but Canaan is nowhere called absolutely "the portion;" nor were the ten tribes specially so designated. Rather, the portion (not a part) is that part of the land and people which was marked out for judgment. The particular calamity alluded to is the second invasion of Tigiath-Pileser II, when he conquered Gilead and the northern part of the kingdom, and carried some of the people captive to Assyria (2 Kings 15:29).
Then said I, O Lord GOD, cease, I beseech thee: by whom shall Jacob arise? for he is small.
Verses 5, 6. - The intercession is the same as in ver. 2, except that the prophet says cease instead of "forgive;" and in effect the tide of war was rolled back from Israel, and Samaria itself was spared for the time.
The LORD repented for this: This also shall not be, saith the Lord GOD.
Thus he shewed me: and, behold, the Lord stood upon a wall made by a plumbline, with a plumbline in his hand.
Verses 7-9. - § 3. The third vision, the plumb line, represents the Lord himself as coming to examine the conduct of Israel, and finally deciding on its entire ruin. Verse 7. - Upon (rather, over) a wall made by a plumb line. The word translated "plumb line" (anakh) occurs only here. Septuagint ἀδάμας: so the Syriac; Vulgate, trulla caementarii; Aquila, γάνωσις, "brightening," "splendor;" Theodotion, τήκομενον. As the word in other dialects means tin or lead, it is usually taken here to mean the plumb line which builders use to ascertain that their work is even and perpendiculur (see a very different explanation in Knabenbauer, p. 314, etc.). The "wall" is the kingdom of Israel, once carefully built up, solidly constructed, accurately arranged. God had made it upright; how was it now?
And the LORD said unto me, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A plumbline. Then said the Lord, Behold, I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel: I will not again pass by them any more:
Verse 8. - Amos, what seest thou? A question asked to give occasion for the explanation of the symbol, as in Jeremiah 1:11, 13; Jeremiah 24:3. I will set a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel. As it was built by rule and measure, so it should be destroyed. The line was used not only for building, but also for pulling down (see 2 Kings 21:13; Isaiah 34:11; Lamentations 2:8). And this should be done "in the midst" of the people, that all might be tried individually, and that all might acknowledge the justice of the sentence, which now denounced complete ruin. Pass by; so as to spare, or forgive (Amos 8:2; Proverbs 19:11; Micah 7:18). The judgment is irremediable, and the prophet intercedes no more. The final conquest by Shalmaneser is here typified.
And the high places of Isaac shall be desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste; and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.
Verse 9. - The high places of Issac. The shrines of idolatry all over the land. The bamoth are the altars erected on high places and now dedicated to idols (1 Kings 3:2; 2 Kings 23:8; Isaiah 16:12; Hosea 10:8). Isaac here and in ver. 16 is used as a synonym for Israel, perhaps with some ides of contrasting the deeds of the people with the blameless life of the patriarch and his gentle piety (Pusey). Septuagint, βωμοὶ τοῦ γέλωτος, with reference to the meaning of the name Issac, "altars of derision," whence Jerome's version, excelsa idoli. The sanctuaries of Israel. The idol temples at Dan and Bethel (1 Kings 12:29), at Gilgal (Amos 4:4), and perhaps in other places, which had been sanctified by ancient patriarchal worship. Septuagint, αἱ τελεεταὶ τοῦ Ἰσραήλ, "the rites of Israel;" Vulgate, sanctificationes Israel. With the sword. God is represented as standing like an armed warrior taking vengeance on the guilty family. Jeroboam II. had roved Israel from Syria, and was popular owing to his success in war (2 Kings 14:25-28); but his dynasty was overthrown, and this overthrow was the destruction of the Israelitish monarchy. The murder of his son Zachariah by Shallum (2 Kings 15:10) led to those disastrous commotions which culminated in the conquest of Samaria by the Assyrians and the deportattion of the people.
Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, Amos hath conspired against thee in the midst of the house of Israel: the land is not able to bear all his words.
Verses 10-17. - § 4. This bold prophecy, no longer conceived in general terms or referring to distant times, but distinct and personal, arouses the animosity of the priestly authorities at Bethel, who accuse Amos before the king, and warn him to leave the country without more words, or to fear the worst. Verse 10. - Amaziah the priest of Bethel. Amaziah ("the Lord is strong"), the chief of the idol priests at Bethel, a crafty and determined man, hearing this prophecy against the royal house, takes it up as a political matter, and makes a formal accusation against Amos with the view of silencing him. Hath conspired against thee. Probably some of the Israelites had been convinced by the prophet's words, and had joined themselves to him; hence Amaziah speaks of "a conspiracy" (1 Samuel 22:8, 13; 1 Kings 15:27) against the king. Or very possibly the story was fabricated in order to accentuate the charge against Amos. In the midst of the house of Israel. In the very centre of the kingdom, where his treasonable speeches would have the greatest effect. The land, personified, cannot endure such language, which is calculated to disturb its peace, and is quite contrary to its ideas and hopes.
For thus Amos saith, Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be led away captive out of their own land.
Verse 11. - This is a partly correct account of what the prophet had said, but it differed in some important particulars. Amaziah carefully omits the fact that Amos had merely been the mouthpiece of God in all his announcements; he says falsely that a violent death had been predicted for Jeroboam himself; and, in stating that Amos had foretold the captivity of Israel, he says nothing of the sins which led to this doom, or of the hope held out to repentance, or of the prophet's intercession.
Also Amaziah said unto Amos, O thou seer, go, flee thee away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy there:
Verse 12. - Also Amaziah said. Jeroboam appears to have taken no steps in consequence of this accusation, either deeming that the words of a visionary were unworthy of serious consideration, or, like Herod (Matthew 14:5), fearing the people, who had been impressed by the prophet's words and bold bearing. Therefore Amaziah endeavours by his own authority to make Amos leave the country, or else does not wait for the command of the king, who was probably at Samaria. O thou seer! Amaaiah calls Amos chozeh ὁ ὁρῶν (1 Chronicles 21:9; 1 Chronicles 25:5), either with reference to the visions just given, or in derision of his claims - as we might say, "visionary." Flee thee away; fly for thine own good to escape punishment, patronizing and counselling him. Go to the land of Judah; where doubtless your announcement of the ruin of the rival kingdom will be acceptable. Eat bread. Amaziah speaks, as if Amos was paid for his prophecies, made a gain of godliness. Prophesy there. "Vaticinare in terra Jude, ubi libenter audiuntur insani" (St. Jerome). The idoloatrous priest has no conception of the inspiration under which the prophet speaks. He judges others by himself, attributing to Amos the sordid motives by which he himself was influenced.
But prophesy not again any more at Bethel: for it is the king's chapel, and it is the king's court.
Verse 13. - The king's chapel; i.e. "a sanctuary" (Exodus 25:8; Leviticus 19:30) founded by the king (1 Kings 12:28), not by God. So in truth it had only an earthly sanction, and the prophet of the Lord was out of place there. The king's court; literally, house of the kingdom. "National temple" (Kuenen); "a royal temple, the state church" (Pusey). Not the political, but the religious, capital, the chief seat of the religion appertaining to the nation. Amaziah speaks as a thorough Erastian; as if the human authority were everything, and the Lord, of himself, had no claims on the land.
Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycomore fruit:
Verse 14. - The prophet, undaunted by Amaziah's threats, in simple language declares that he does not practise prophecying as a profession or to gain a livelihood, but in obedience to the voice of God. The exercise of the prophetical office was restricted neither to sex nor rank. There were many prophetesses in Israel, e.g. Deborah (Judges 4.), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14), Noadiah (Nehemiah 6:14); and besides a large number of nameless prophets there are twenty-three whose names are preserved in Holy Writ, omitting those whose writings have come down to us (Ladd, 'Doctrine of Scripture,' 1:117, etc.). A prophet's son; i.e. brought up in the schools of the prophets, the pupils of which were called "sons of the prophets" (see 1 Kings 20:35; 2 Kings 2:5). Amos was neither self-commissioned nor trained in any human institution. A herdman (boger); usually "a cowherd;" here "a shepherd;" αἰπόλος (Septuagint). A gatherer of sycomore fruit. The phrase, boles shiqmim, may mean either one who plucks mulberry figs for his own sustenance, or one who cultivates them for others. The latter is probably the meaning of the term here. The Septuagint rendering, κνίζων συκάμινα, "pricking sycamore fruit," and that of the Vulgate, vellicans sycomoros, indicate the artificial means for ripening the fruit, which was done by scraping, scratching, or puncturing it, as is sometimes done to the figs of commerce. As the tree bore many crops of fruit in the year, it would afford constant employment to the dresser (see 'Dict. of the Bible,' 3. p. 1394; 'Bible Educator,' 4, p. 343).
And the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel.
Verse 15. - As I followed; literally, from after from behind, as in the call of David (2 Samuel 7:8; Psalm 78:70), The Divine call came to him suddenly and imperatively, and he must needs obey it. He, therefore, could not follow Amaziah's counsel.
Now therefore hear thou the word of the LORD: Thou sayest, Prophesy not against Israel, and drop not thy word against the house of Isaac.
Verse 16. - Hear thou the word of the Lord. The punishment of him who tried to impede God's message. Drop not thy word. Be not continually pouring forth prophecy. The word is used similarly in Micah 2:6, 11 and Ezekiel 21:2. The idea, though not the term, is taken from Deuteronomy 32:2. Septuagint, μὴ ὀχλαγωγήσῃς, "raise no tumult," which rather expresses Amaziah's fear of the effect of the utterance than translates the word. St. Jerome's explanation is somewhat too subtle, "Stillare prophetas idioma Scripturarum est, quod non totam Dei simul inferant iram, sed parvas stillas comminatione denuntient."
Therefore thus saith the LORD; Thy wife shall be an harlot 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 a polluted land: and Israel shall surely go into captivity forth of his land.
Verse 17. - With this denunciation compare that of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 20:3, etc.) against Pashur. As husband, as father, as citizen, Amamah shall suffer grievously. Shall be an harlot in the city. Not play the harlot willingly, but suffer open violence when the city is taken (comp. Isaiah 13:16; Lamentations 5:11). And thy daughters. This would be abnormal cruelty, as the Assyrians usually spared the women of conquered towns. Shall be divided by line. Amaziah's own land was to be portioned out to strangers by the measuring line (Zechariah 2:2). A polluted land; an unclean land; i.e. a Gentile country. Amaziah himself was to share his countrymen's captivity. The sins and idolatry of the people are often said to defile the land; e.g. Leviticus 18:25; Numbers 35:33; Jeremiah 2:7. Shall surely go into captivity; or, be led away captive. Amos repeats the very words which formed part of his accusation (ver. 11), in order to show that God's purpose is unchanged, and that he, the prophet, must utter the same denunciation (see the accomplishment, 2 Kings 17:6).