Amos 9
Pulpit Commentary
I saw the Lord standing upon the altar: and he said, Smite the lintel of the door, that the posts may shake: and cut them in the head, all of them; and I will slay the last of them with the sword: he that fleeth of them shall not flee away, and he that escapeth of them shall not be delivered.
Verses 1-10. - § 6. The fifth vision displays the Lord standing by the altar and commanding the destruction of the temple (ver. 1). No one shall escape this judgment, flee whither he will (vers. 2-4); for God is Almighty (vers. 5, 6). Their election shall not save the guilty Israelites; still they shall not be utterly destroyed (vers. 7-10). Verse 1. - I saw the Lord. It is now no longer a mere emblem that the prophet sees, but actual destruction. He beholds the majesty of God, as Isaiah 6:1; Ezekiel 10:1. Upon (or, by) the altar; i.e. the altar of burnt offering at Jerusalem, Where, it is supposed, the whole nation, Israelites and Judaeans, are assembled for worship. It is natural, at first sight, to suppose that the sanctuary of the northern kingdom is the scene of this vision, as the destruction of idolatry is here emblemized; but more probably Bethel is not meant, for there were more altars than one there (Amos 3:14), and one cannot imagine the Lord standing by the symbol of the calf worship. Smite. The command is mysteriously addressed to the destroying angel (comp. Exodus 12:13; 2 Samuel 24:15, etc.; 2 Kings 19:35). The lintel of the door; τὸ ἱλαστήριον (Septuagint); cardinem (Vulgate); better, the chapiter (Zephaniah 2:14); i.e. the capital of the columns. The word kaphtor is used in Exodus 25:31, etc., for the knop or ornament on the golden candlesticks; here the idea is that the temple receives a blow on the top of the pillars which support it sufficient to cause its overthrow. The LXX. rendering arises from a confusion of two Hebrew words somewhat similar. The posts; the thresholds; i.e. the base. The knop and the threshold imply the total destruction from summit to base. Cut them in the head, all of them; rather, break them [the capital and the thresholds] to pieces upon the head of all. Let the falling building cover them with its ruins. The Vulgate renders, avaritia enim in capite omnium, confounding two words. Jerome had the same Hebrew reading, as he translates, quaetus eorum, avaritia, as if giving the reason for the punishment. The overthrown temple presents a forcible picture of the destruction of the theocracy. The last of them (Amos 4:2); the remnant; any who escape the fall of the temple. He that fleeth, etc. All hope of escape shall be cut off.
Though they dig into hell, thence shall mine hand take them; though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down:
Verse 2. - The thought of ver. 1 is further expanded, the notion of flight being, as Jerome says, dissected. For dig, the LXX. reads, "be hidden;" but the expression implies a breaking through (Ezekiel 8:8). Hell (Sheol) is supposed to be in the inmost part of the earth (comp. Psalm 139:7, 8; Obadiah 1:4). Take them. To receive punishment.
And though they hide themselves in the top of Carmel, I will search and take them out thence; and though they be hid from my sight in the bottom of the sea, thence will I command the serpent, and he shall bite them:
Verse 3. - The top of Carmel. Among the woods and thickets. There are no eaves on the summit of Carmel. "Amos tolls us that in his day the top of it was a place to hide in; nor has it changed its character in this respect ... I would not have been prompted to place 'the top of Carmel' third in such a series of hiding places, yet I can fully appreciate the comparison from my own experience. Ascending from the south, we followed a wild, narrow wady overhung by trees, bushes, and tangled creepers, through which my guide thought we could get up to the top; but it became absolutely impracticable, and we were obliged to find our way back again. And even after we reached the summit, it was so rough and broken in some places, and the thorn bushes so thickset and sharp, that our clothes were torn and our hands and faces severely lacerated; nor could I see my guide at times ten steps ahead of me. From such biblical intimations, we may believe that Carmel was not very thickly inhabited" (Thomson, 'The Land and the Book,' Central Palestine, p. 237, etc.). Other writers speak of the occurrence of caves and deep valleys in the Carmel range. In the bottom of the sea. Both this and heaven (ver. 2) are impracticable hiding places, and are used poetically to show the absolute impossibility of escape. Serpent (nachash, elsewhere called leviathan and tannin, Isaiah 27:1), some kind of seamonster supposed to be venomous. Dr. Pusey mentions that certain poisonous hydrophidae are found in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. and may probably infest the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf.
And though they go into captivity before their enemies, thence will I command the sword, and it shall slay them: and I will set mine eyes upon them for evil, and not for good.
Verse 4. - Captivity itself, in which state men generally, at any rate, are secure of their lives, shall not save them from the sword (Leviticus 26:33; Deuteronomy 28:65, etc. comp. Tobit 1:17, 18 Tobit 2:3, where we see that the murder of captives was not unusual). The prophet looks forward to the Assyrian deportation. For evil. The people are indeed subject to God's special attention, but only in order to punish them (Psalm 34:15, 16; Jeremiah 44:11).
And the Lord GOD of hosts is he that toucheth the land, and it shall melt, and all that dwell therein shall mourn: and it shall rise up wholly like a flood; and shall be drowned, as by the flood of Egypt.
Verse 5. - To confirm the threats just uttered, the prophet dwells upon God's omnipotence, of which he gives instances. He who will do this is the Lord God of hosts, There is no copula in the Hebrew here. (So Amos 4:13; Amos 5:8.) This title, Jehovah Elohim Zebaoth, represents God not only as Ruler of the heavenly bodies, but as the Monarch of a multitude of heavenly spirits who execute his will, worship him in his abiding place, and are attendants and witnesses of his glory (see note on Haggai 1:2). Shall melt; σαλεύων (Septuagint); comp. Psalm 46:6; Psalm 97:5; Micah 1:4; Nahum 1:5. The expression denotes the destructive effects of the judgments of God. Shall mourn. The last clauses of the verse are a repetition of Amos 8:8, with some slight variation.
It is he that buildeth his stories in the heaven, and hath founded his troop in the earth; he that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The LORD is his name.
Verse 6. - Stories; ἀνάβασιν (Septuagint); ascensionem (Vulgate); upper chambers, or the stages by which is the ascent to the highest heavens (comp. Deuteronomy 10:14; 1 Kings 8:27; Psalm 104:3). His troop (aguddah); vault. The word is used for "the bonds" of the yoke in Isaiah 58:6; for "the bunch" of hyssop in Exodus 12:22. So the Vulgate here renders fasciculum suum, with the notion that the stories or chambers just mentioned are bound together to connect heaven and earth. But the clause means, God hath founded the vault or firmament of heaven upon (not in) the earth, where his throne is placed, and whence he sends the rain. The Septuagint renders, τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν αὐτοῦ, "his promise." So the Syriac. The waters of the sea. The reference is to the Deluge (Amos 5:8; Genesis 7:4, 11).
Are ye not as children of the Ethiopians unto me, O children of Israel? saith the LORD. Have not I brought up Israel out of the land of Egypt? and the Philistines from Caphtor, and the Syrians from Kir?
Verse 7. - Israel's election to be God's people should not save them, unless their conduct corresponded with God's choice.
Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth; saving that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, saith the LORD.
Verse 8. - The sinful kingdom. The kingdom of all Israel and Judah, the same as the house of Jacob just below, though a different fate awaits this, regarded as the covenant nation, whose are the promises. Destroy it, etc., as was threatened (Deuteronomy 6:15). Saving that. In spite of the destruction of the wicked people, God's promises hold good, and there is still a remnant who shall be saved (Jeremiah 30:11).
For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth.
Verse 9. - For, lo! He explains how and why the whole nation is not destroyed. I will sift. Israel is to be dispersed among the nations, tried and winnowed among them by affliction and persecution, that the evil may fall to the ground and perish, and the good be preserved. The word rendered "sift" implies "to shake to and fro;" and this shaking shall show who are the true Israelites and who are the false, who retain their faith and cleave to the Lord under all difficulties, and who lose their hold of true religion and assimilate themselves to the heathen among whom they dwell. These last shall not return from captivity. The least grain; Hebrew, tseror, "pebble;" so the Vulgate, lapillus; Septuagint, σύντριμμα," fragment." It is used in 2 Samuel 17:13 of small stones in a building; here as hard grain in distinction from loose chaff (Keil). The solid grain, the good wheat, are the righteous, who, when the chaff and dust are cast away, are stored in the heavenly garner, prove themselves of the election, and inherit the promises (comp. Isaiah 6:13; Ezekiel 20:38; Matthew 3:12). Fall upon the earth; i.e. perish, be lost (1 Samuel 26:20).
All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, which say, The evil shall not overtake nor prevent us.
Verse 10. - If any are to be saved, it will not be the sinners; they need not flatter themselves that their wilful blindness shall secure them. The evil shall not overtake. They lulled themselves into a false security, and shut their cars against the warnings of the prophets; but that would avail them nothing. Prevent; come upon suddenly, surprise.
In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old:
Verses 11-15. - Part IV. EPILOGUE. THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE NEW KINGDOM AND THE REIGN OF MESSIAH. THE KINGDOM SHALL EMBRACE ALL NATIONS (vers. 11, 12), SHALL BE ENRICHED WITH SUPERABUNDANT SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS (vers. 13, 14), AND SHALL ENDURE FOREVER (ver. 15). Verse 11. - In that day. When the judgment has fallen. The passage is quoted by St. James (Acts 15:16, 27), mostly from the Greek, in confirmation of the doctrine that the Church of God is open to all, whether Jew or Gentile. The tabernacle (sukkah): hut, or tent (as Jonah 4:5); no palace now, but fallen to low esthete, a "little house" (Amos 6:11). The prophet refers probably to the fall of the kingdom of David in the ruin wrought by the Chaldeans. Interpreted spiritually, the passage shadows forth the universal Church of Christ, raised from that of the Jews. Pusey notes that in the Talmud Christ is called "the Son of the fallen." The breaches. The house of David had sustained breaches under the hands of Jeroboam and Joash, and in the severance of the ten tribes at the hands of Assyriaus and Chaldees; these should be repaired. Unity should be restored, the captives should return, and another kingdom should be established under another David, the Messiah. Judah's temporary prosperity under Uzziah and Hezekiah would have been a totally inadequate fulfilment of the prophecy. Prophecies of the temporal and spiritual are, as usual, blended together and run up into each other. His ruins. The destroyed places of David! will build it; Hebrew, her. The whole Jewish Church (comp. Jeremiah 31:4; Jeremiah 33:7). As in the days of old. The days of David and Solomon, the most flourishing times of the kingdom (2 Samuel 7:11, 12, 16). In the expression, "of old," Hebrew, "of eternity," may lurk an idea of the length of time that must elapse before the fulfilment of the promise. Septuagint, Ἀνοικοδομήσω αὐτὴν καθὼς αἱ ἡμέραι τοῦ αἰῶνος, "I will build it up as are the days of eternity." This seems to signify that the building is to last forever.
That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the LORD that doeth this.
Verse 12. - That they (the true children of Israel) may possess the remnant of Edom; i.e. those who were nearest in blood, and yet most hostile of all men. David had subdued the Edomites (2 Samuel 8:14; 1 Kings 11:16), and Amaziah had inflicted a great slaughter upon them (2 Kings 14:7); but later they recovered their independence (2 Kings 16:6, where "Edomites" should be read for "Syrians;" 2 Chronicles 28:17), and were actively hostile against the Jews. It was on this account that they were emphatically denounced by Obadiah. "The remnant" is mentioned because, according to the threat in Amos 1:11, 12, they would be punished so that only a few would escape. The Septuagint gives ,Ὅπως ἐκζητήσωσιν οἱ κατάλοιποι τὼν ἀνθρώπων, [τὸν κύριον, Alexandrian], "That the remnant of men may earnestly seek the Lord," regarding Edom as a representative of aliens from God, and altering the text to make the sense more generally intelligible, This version, which reads "Adam," men, instead of "Edom," is endorsed by St. James. Which are called by my Name; "over whom my Name hath been called" (Septuagint). This is closer to the Hebrew; but the meaning is much the same, viz. all those who are dedicated to God and belong to him being by faith incorporated into the true Israel. (For the phrase, comp. 2 Samuel 12:28; Isaiah 4:1; and to illustrate the idea, refer to Deuteronomy 28:10; Isaiah 44:5; Psalm 87:5, 6.) The Messianic kingdom shall be established in order that salvation may be extended to all hastens who embrace it. Saith the Lord; is the saying of Jehovah. This is added to show the immutability of the promise. The covenant God himself hath predicted it.
Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt.
Verse 13. - The prophet expatiates upon the rich blessings which shall follow the establishment of the kingdom. Under the figure of a supernatural fertility are represented the victories of grace (comp. Isaiah 11:6; Ezekiel 26:10, etc.; Ezekiel 34:25, etc.). The blessing is founded on the Mosaic promise (Leviticus 26:5). The ploughman shall overtake the reaper. Ploughing and harvest shall be continuous, without sensible interval. The treader of grapes him that soweth seed. The vintage should be so abundant that it should last till sowing time. The mountains shall drop sweet wine. This is from Joel 3:18. And all the hills shall melt. As Joel says, "shall flow with milk," in this promised land "flowing with milk and honey." Septuagint, πάντες οἱ βουνοὶ σύμφυτοι ἔσονται, "all the hills shall be planted" with vines and olives. For, as Corn. a Lapide quotes, "Bacchus amat colles" (Virg., 'Georg.,' 2:113). The hyperbolical expressions in the text are not to be taken literally; they depict in bright colours the blessings of the kingdom of Messiah. Material and temporal blessings are generally represented as closely connected with spiritual, and as figurative of them. Such predictions, understood literally, are common in the so called Sibylline Books; see e.g. lib. 3:743, etc., where, among other prodigies, we have -

Πηγάς τε ῤήξει γλυκερὰς λευκοῖο γάλακτος One is reminded of the golden age depicted by Virgil in his fourth eclogue. Trochon cites Claudian, 'In Rufin.,' 1:381, etc. -

"... nec vomere sulcus adunco
Findetur; subitis messor gaudebit aristis.
Rorabunt querceta favis; stagnantia passim
Vina fluent, oleique lacus."
And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them.
Verse 14. - I will bring again the captivity; i.e. I will repair the misery which they have suffered. The expression is here metaphorical, and does not necessarily refer to any restoration to an earthly Canaan. Shall build the waste cities (Isaiah 54:3). All these promised blessings are in marked contrast to the punishments threatened (Deuteronomy 28:30, 33, 39; compare similar premises in Isaiah 65:21, etc.).
And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD thy God.
Verse 15. - The blessing shall last forever. They shall no more be pulled up. This was not true of the literal Israel; it must be taken of the spiritual seed, planted in God's land, the Church of Christ, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail. "Lo," says Christ, "I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" (Matthew 28:20)

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