It will not be necessary to extend our preliminary remarks on the prophet Amos, since on the main point -- viz., the circumstances under which he appeared as a prophet -- the introduction to the prophecies of Hosea may be regarded as having been written for those of Amos also. For, according to the inscription, they belong to the same period at which Hosea's prophetic ministry began, viz., the latter part of the reign of Jeroboam II., and after Uzziah had ascended the throne in Judah.
The circumstances of the prophet we learn, generally, from the words in chap. i.1: "Who was among the herdmen of Tekoah." If there existed no other statement than this, there might be truth in the remark made by many interpreters, that we cannot, from his having been a herdman, infer that he was poor and low. It is shown, however, by a statement in chap. vii.14, that, by the "herdman," we are not to understand one who was also possessed of flocks, or, like David, the son of such, but a poor servant herdman. For, in that passage, the prophet replies to the command of the priest Amaziah to get himself out of the country, to which he did not belong, and to return to his native land: "I am no prophet, nor the son of a prophet, but I am a herdman; and such an one as plucketh sycamores. And the Lord took me from behind the flock, and the Lord said unto me. Go prophesy unto My people Israel." The fruit of the sycamores, called [Greek: atrophos] and [Greek: kakostomachos] by Dioscorides, served as food for only the poorest and meanest. Bochart (Hieroz. t. i. p.407  Rosenmueller) remarks: "It is the same as if he had said, that he was a man of the humblest condition, and born in poor circumstances, so that he scarcely maintained his life by scanty and frugal fare; that he had never thought of obtaining the prophetical office in Israel, until a higher power, viz., divine inspiration, impelled him to undertake it." But this passage merits our attention in another [Pg 353] point of view. In what sense is it that Amos here denies that he is a prophet? It is evidently in a very special sense that he does so. He obviously does not mean thereby to deny that he possessed the gift of prophecy, or held the prophetical office; for, otherwise, he would himself have furnished weapons to his enemy, to whom he wishes to prove his right. The following remarks will be found to contain the true answer.
It cannot be proved in any way, that the schools of the prophets, established by Samuel at a time when the circumstances of Judah and Israel were altogether similar, were continued in the kingdom of Judah. Every prophet there stands in an isolated position. The entire prophetic order and institute bears rather a sporadic character. But in the kingdom of Israel, where the prophetic order occupied a position altogether different from that which it held in the kingdom of Judah, inasmuch as, after the expulsion of the tribe of Levi, they had to watch over all the interests of religion, the schools of the prophets had a very important mission assigned to them. We must not by any means imagine that their constitution was such, that after a few years' training, the sons of the prophets attained to perfect independence. The greater number of them remained during all their lifetime in the position of sons. The schools of the prophets were a kind of monasteries. Even those who, in consequence of their peculiar circumstances, no longer remained there, but were scattered throughout the country, continued always under their authority. One needs only to read attentively the histories of Elijah and of Elisha, which afford us the fullest information regarding these institutions, to be speedily convinced of the soundness of the view which we have here presented. On the subject of the organization of the schools of the prophets in the kingdom of Israel, compare Dissertations on the Genuineness of the Pentateuch, i. p.185. f.
But how can Amos adduce it as a proof of his divine mission, that he is neither a prophet, nor, in the sense explained, a prophet's son, i.e., that he was neither a superior nor an inferior member of the prophetic order? The answer is, -- It was the result of that organization of the prophetic order, that the relation to the Lord was one which was more or less mediate. To those who would not acknowledge the immediate divine influence, some ground was thereby afforded for doing so. Their training, their principles, the form of their prophecies, all admitted of a natural explanation. It is true that the spirit which animated them baffled any such attempt; but that spirit was not so easily perceived. In the case of any one, then, who appeared as a prophet, without standing in that connection, and yet in the full possession of all prophetic gifts, -- in demonstration of the spirit and of power, a natural explanation was far more difficult; especially if, like Amos, he was, by his outward situation, cut off from all human resources for education. But was Amos, for that reason, an uneducated man? This is a question which one may answer either in the affirmative or negative, according to what he understands by education. So much is certain, that he was in possession of the essential part of a true Israelitish education -- viz., the knowledge of the law. The most intimate acquaintance with the Pentateuch everywhere manifests itself; compare in proof of this the Dissertations on the Genuineness of the Pentateuch, i. p.136 ff. There are too many instances, down to most recent times, of living piety breaking, in this respect, through almost impenetrable barriers, to allow us to consider this as a strange thing, and to make it necessary for us to excogitate the various ways and means by which Amos may have received this education. It is only on the lower ground of the mere forms of language, that the rank of Amos not unfrequently appears. In all the higher relations he shows himself a type of the Apostles, who, although they were uneducated fishermen of Galilee, exhibit the most distinguishing proofs of true education.
Amos belonged to that circle of prophets who received a commission to prophesy the ruin which was impending over the Covenant-people, before any human probability existed for it. Baur, on Amos, S.60, is of opinion that "the definiteness with which he prophesies the destruction of the kingdom of [Pg 355] Jeroboam, although its power was at that time still flourishing, leads us to expect that he must have had distinct indications of its speedy decay." In a certain sense we may assent to this opinion. The prophet himself continually points to such indications. These indications are the sins of the people. But if Baur endeavours to put political indications in the stead of these moral ones; if he be of opinion that the Assyrians must, at that time, have stood in a threatening attitude in the background, we must give to his opinion a decided opposition. We can, in such an assertion, see only an effect of that naturalistic mode of viewing things, which would limit the horizon of the prophets to that of their own times. Not the slightest allusion to the Assyrians occurs. The supposition that Calneh or Ktesiphon, in chap. vi.2, appears as having already fallen (through the Assyrians), rests upon an incorrect interpretation, just as does the assertion that Hamath, in the same passage, is supposed to be conquered; concerning the latter point, compare Thenius on 2 Kings xiv.28. In the announcement of the carrying away into captivity beyond Damascus, made in chap. v.27, there appears nothing more than the knowledge, that the catastrophe will not be brought about by that heathen power which had hitherto brought ruin upon the kingdom of Israel But, everywhere, we may see that the prophet -- whom we have no reason to think an especially ingenious politician -- appeared at a time when no one expected any danger. Amos prophesied at a time when the morning-dawn had risen upon Israel, iv.13, v.8; "in the beginning of the shooting up of the grass, and behold the grass was standing, after the King (Jehovah) had caused to be mown," vii.1; at a time when the prosperity of the kingdom of the ten tribes was again budding forth. In chap. viii.9, the Lord threatens that He will cause the sun to go down at noon, and bring darkness over the land in the day of light. In chap. vi.4-6, the prevailing careless luxury and [Pg 356] joy are graphically described. Chap. v.18 implies that the people mocked at the threatening of the coming of the day of the Lord, the coming of which could, therefore, not have been indicated by any human probability. In chap. vi.1, the prophet gives utterance to an exclamation of woe over them that are secure in Zion, and that trust in the mountain of Samaria. In chap. vi.13, he opposes the delusion of those "who rejoice in a thing of nought, who say, Have we not taken to us horns by our own strength?" The people in the kingdom of the ten tribes must accordingly have imagined that they were living in the golden age of the fulfilment of Deut. xxx.17, and must not have thought for a moment that the axe was already laid to the root of the tree.
But we are not at liberty to seek the fulfilment of the prophecy of Amos, only in the visitation by the Assyrians. That which happens to the people of the ten tribes is, to the prophet, only a part of a general visitation, which comes, not only upon all the neighbouring nations, but upon Judah also, and which brings utter ruin upon the latter, chap. ii.4, 5, destroying the temple at Jerusalem, and driving the house of David from the throne, ix.1, 11. According to prophecy and history, however, this catastrophe came upon Judah, not by Asshur, but, in the first instance, by Babylon.
The prophecy possesses a comprehensive character, such as we should be led to expect from the close connection of Amos with Joel. It comprehends everything which Judah and Israel, along with the neighbouring people, had to suffer from the rising heathen powers; compare vi.14, v.24, according to which, judgment shall roll down as waters, and righteousness as a continual stream.
In the case of Amos, also, interpreters have been at considerable pains in fixing the time and the occasion of the single portions, but with as little success as in the cases of Hosea and Micah. The very inscription proves that we have before us a whole, composed at one time, and containing the substance of [Pg 357] what the prophet had uttered previously, and in a detached form. According to this inscription, the book was composed only two years after the prophet's personal ministry in the kingdom of Israel. But if there were such an interval betwixt the oral preaching of the prophet and its having been committed to writing, it is, a priori, not likely that the latter should have followed the former, step by step.
The words, "Two years before the earthquake," cannot be regarded as a chronological date, intended to fix more definitely the exact time within the more extended period previously stated, viz., "the days of Uzziah and Jeroboam." For such a purpose they are ill suited, inasmuch as the time of the earthquake is not fixed; and, moreover, any such more definite determination would have been without either significance or interest. This only was of importance, that the word of the Lord should have been uttered in the days of Jeroboam, and that the prophecy of the destruction should have been delivered at a time when the Israelites enjoyed an amount of prosperity, such as they had not known for a long time. It can scarcely be doubted that the earthquake under Uzziah, the fearfulness of which is testified by Zech. xiv.5, comes under consideration only as the reason for the composition of the book, -- for committing to writing what had formerly been delivered orally. The earthquake denotes, in the symbolical language of Scripture, great revolutions, by which the form of the earth is changed, and that which is uppermost, overturned; compare my remarks on Rev. vi.12. To point to such an earthquake had been the fundamental thought of Amos' oral predictions. By the natural earthquake, he was induced to commit them to writing, that they might go side by side with the symbol, and serve as its interpreter.
There is a plan in the arrangement of the book, which indicates that the book is not a collection of separate discourses, but that it bears an independent character. It is distinctly divided into two parts, -- the first, made up of naked prophecies, from chap. i. to chap. vi.; the second, of such prophecies as are connected with a symbol, which is always very simple, and very briefly described, -- from chap. vii. to chap. ix.
In the first part, the prophet begins with the announcement of the wrath of the Lord, ver.2. He then reviews, in their [Pg 358] order, those kingdoms upon which it shall be poured out, viz., Damascus, Philistia, Tyrus, Edom, Ammon, Moab, and Judah: until at last the storm reaches to Israel, and, according to Rueckert's striking remarks, remains suspended over it.
In addition to Israel, there are seven nations, and the seven are divided into three, and four; three not related to the people of the ten tribes, and four related to them; the brotherly people of Judah being introduced after three nations have been mentioned which are more distantly related to Israel.
According to Rueckert, it is only in chap. ii.6-16 that the storm which remained suspended over Israel is described; then in chap. iii.-vi. there follow four threatening discourses, which are not connected either with the preceding ones, or with each other. But the correct view rather is, that this stationary suspension is described in the whole of the first half, -- in the main, indeed, even to the end of the book.
This is evident from the consideration that, if such were not the case, the treatment of the main subject would be, as regards the extent of the description, greatly disproportioned to the introduction; for chap. i. to ii.5 must be considered to be, throughout, merely introductory. But as the ground on which we advance this assertion is made in opposition to an unsound view, it requires a more particular determination. It is assumed by many interpreters, that in the nations besides Israel, the prophet reproves "some haughty excesses, but, evidently, only as instances of the immorality prevailing" (Jahn, Einl. 2, p.404). But this view, according to which the prophet might, instead of the various crimes mentioned, have noticed any other crime, e.g., fornication, idolatry, etc., is certainly erroneous. It is rather a theocratic judgment of which he speaks throughout; they are crimes against the theocracy, the punishment of which he announces. These he considers as being more heinous than all others; for the guilt of the latter is diminished by the circumstance of their having been committed against the hidden God only, while the former have been committed against the God who has manifested Himself, and who is living among His people. For so much is evident, that the main cause of the hatred of all the neighbouring nations against Israel was, that Israel was the people of God. For where can an instance be found of a hatred betwixt any [Pg 359] two of them, so inextinguishable, and continuing through centuries? How entirely different is, e.g., the position of Edom against Moab, from that of Edom against Israel? Three reasons confirm the correctness of our assertion as to the purely theocratic nature of the judgment.1. The general announcement of the judgment. "Jehovah roareth from Zion, and from Jerusalem He giveth His voice." The very use of the name Jehovah here deserves attention. A judgment of a general kind upon the heathen would belong to God as Elohim. It is Elohim who is the God of the heathen, -- the Creator, Preserver, and Governor of the world, from whom blessings, as well as judgments upon it, proceed. Now it might be said that Jehovah is used in the case of the heathen also, for the sake of uniformity, because to Him belongeth the judgment upon Judah and Israel. But that this is not the case, is seen from the addition: "From Zion, -- from Jerusalem." Every general judgment proceeds from heaven; it is only as a theocratic God, that God reigns in Zion and Jerusalem. This argument admits of no exception; all that God does from Zion is theocratic deliverance, or theocratic judgment. -- 2. The nature of the crimes themselves, which are cited by way of example. It can certainly not be merely accidental, that they are all such as were committed against the Covenant-people. There is one only which forms an apparent exception, viz., that of the Moabites, who are, in chap. ii.1, charged with having burned into lime the bones of the king of Edom. But, with the consent of the greater number of interpreters, Jerome remarks on this: "In order that God might show that He is the Lord of all, and that every soul is subject to Him who formed it. He punishes the iniquity committed against the king of Edom." But in this remark of Jerome, the relation in which Idumea stood to the Covenant-people is altogether lost sight of. It is only as a vassal of their kings that the king of Edom here comes into view. This is sufficiently manifest from 2 Kings iii., although the event narrated there is different from that which is here alluded to, of which no record has been preserved in history. The hatred against the Covenant-people, which the [Pg 360] Moabites were too weak openly to exhibit, impelled them to this wicked deed against the king tributary to them. -- 3. It must be carefully observed how the prophet, when coming to Judah, introduces us, at once, into the centre of theocratic transgression, the forsaking of the living God, and the serving of vain, dead idols.
It will now be easily seen in what way the portion, chap. i.-ii.5, serves as an introduction to what follows. The prophecies against foreign nations do not, as elsewhere, serve as a consolation, or as a proof of the love of God towards His people, and of His omnipotence, or as a means for destroying confidence in man's power, in man's help; they are, on the contrary, intended, from the very outset, to give rise in Israel to the question: If such be done in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry? That question the prophet answers at large. If severe punishment be inflicted, even upon those who have trespassed against the living God, with whom they came into contact only distantly, what will become of those to whom He manifested Himself so plainly and distinctly, -- among whom He had, as it were, gained a form, -- before whose eyes He had been so evidently set forth? The declaration, "You only do I know of all the families of the earth; therefore I shall visit upon you all your iniquities" (iii.2), forms the centre of the whole threatening announcement to Israel. And could it indeed be introduced in any better way than by pointing out, how even the lowest degree of knowledge was followed by such a visitation? But now, that which under the Old Testament was the highest degree, becomes, under the New Testament, only a preparatory step. The revelation of God in Christ stands in the same relation to that made to Israel under the Old Testament, as the latter stands to the manifestation of His character and nature to the heathen, who came into connection with the Covenant-people. Thus the fulfilment becomes to us a new prophecy. If the rejection of God, in His inferior revelation, was followed by such awful consequences to the temporal welfare of the people of the Old Covenant, what must be the consequences of the rejection of the highest and fullest revelation of God to the temporal and spiritual welfare of the people of the New Covenant? This is a thought which is further expanded in Heb. xii.17 ff., and it forms the essential feature of [Pg 361] the description of the judgment of the world in the New Testament. This judgment has been but too often thus misunderstood, as if it concerned the world as the world, -- a misunderstanding similar to that of the section before us. The Gospel shall first be preached to every creature, and according as every one has conducted himself towards the living God, so he shall be judged. -- But it is not to the heathen nations only, but to Judah also that, by way of introduction, destruction is announced. The circumstance that not even the possession of so many precious privileges, as the temple and the Davidic throne, could ward off the well-merited punishment of sin, could not but powerfully affect the hearts of the ten tribes. If God's justice be so energetic, what have they to expect?
If we continue the examination of Rueckert's view, it will soon appear that the phrase, "Hear this word," in iii.1, iv.1, and v.1, can alone be considered as the foundation on which it rests. But these words do not at all prove a new commencement, but only a new starting-point. This appears sufficiently from the absence of these words at the alleged fourth threatening discourse in chap. vi.; and likewise from a comparison of Hosea iv.1 and v.1: "Hear the word of the Lord, ye children of Israel," and "Hear this, ye priests, and hearken, ye house of Israel, and give ear, house of the king;" while nothing similar occurs in the following chapters. That such an exhortation was appropriate, even in the middle, is clearly seen from Amos iii.13. It cannot then, per se, prove anything in favour of a new beginning. If it is to be regarded as such, the discourse must be proved, by other reasons, to have been completed. But no such reasons here exist. We might as reasonably assume the existence of ten threatening discourses, as of four. The circumstance that we can nowhere discover a sure commencement and a clearly defined termination, shows that we are fully justified in considering the whole first part, chap. i. to vi., as a connected discourse.
The second part, which contains the visions of the destruction, is composed, indeed, of various portions, -- as might have been expected from the nature of the subject. Each new vision, with the discourse connected with it, must form a new section. Chap. vii., viii., and ix., form each a whole. From the account which is added to the first vision; and which relates [Pg 362] to the transactions between Amos and the high priest Amaziah, which were caused by the public announcement of this vision (chap. vii.12-14), we are led to suppose that these visions were formerly delivered singly, in the form in which we now possess them. But that, even here, we have not before us pieces loosely connected with each other in a chronological arrangement, is evident from the fact, that the promises stand just at the end of the whole collection. The prophet had rather to reprove and to threaten than to comfort; but yet he cannot refrain, at least at the close, from causing the sun to break through the clouds. Without this close there would be wanting in Amos a main element of the prophetic discourse, which is wanting in no other prophet, and by which alone the other elements are placed in a proper light.
It also militates against the supposition of a mere collection, that in the last vision the prevailing regard to the kingdom of the ten tribes disappears almost entirely, and that, like the third chapter of Hosea, it relates to the whole of the Covenant-people, -- in agreement with the reference to the earthquake mentioned in the inscription, which the prophet had experienced in Judah, and which brought into view, not a particular, but a general, judgment.
The symbolical clothing, however, forms the sole difference betwixt the second part and the first. As the "real centre and essence of the book" the second part cannot be regarded; the threatening is as clear and impressive in the first part.
That which is common to Amos with the contemporary prophets, is the absolute clearness with which he foresees that, before salvation comes, all that is glorious, not only in Israel, but in Judah also, must be given over to destruction. Judah and Israel shall be overflowed by the heathen world, the Temple at Jerusalem destroyed, the Davidic dynasty dethroned, and the inhabitants of both kingdoms carried away into captivity. But afterwards, the restoration of David's tabernacle (ix.11), and the extension of the kingdom of God far beyond the borders of the heathen world (ver.12), take place. The most characteristic point is the emanation of salvation from the family of David, at the time of its deepest abasement.
Footnote 1: Bochart remains unrefuted by the assertions of Hitzig, Baur, and others, who make Amos the owner of a plantation of sycamores, which, according to them, made him a wealthy man. [Hebrew: bls] can be understood only of the plucking, or gathering of the fruits of the sycamores. The "cutting of the bark" is by no means obvious, and is too much the language of natural history. That the prophet's real vocation is designated by [Hebrew: bvqr], and that [Hebrew: bvls wqmim] is not, by any means, something independent of, and co-ordinate with that, appears from ver.15, where the [Hebrew: bvqr] is resumed. The fruits of the sycamores may, occasionally, not have a disagreeable taste, for him who eats them only as a dainty; but they are at all events very poor ordinary food; compare Warnekros in Eichhorn's Repert. 11.256.
Footnote 2: The groundlessness of such a mode of viewing things is shown by the prophecy of events such as that mentioned in i.15: "The people of Aram are carried away to Kir, saith the Lord;" compare the fulfilment in 2 Kings xvi.9. They had originally come from Kir, Amos ix.7. This circumstance furnished the natural foundation for the prophecy, and it was certainly this circumstance also which induced the conqueror to adopt his measures. But the supernatural character of the definite prophecy remains, nevertheless, unshaken.
Footnote 3: Caspari in his commentary on Micah, S.69, is wrong in remarking: "Joel beholds the instruments of punitive justice upon Israel, as numberless hosts only; Amos, already, as a single nation." In Amos vi.14 the [Hebrew: gvi] as little means a single nation, as it does in the fundamental passage, Deut. xxviii.49 ff., beyond the definiteness of which Amos does not go.
Footnote 4: Scarcely any doubt can, however, be entertained that we have here before us a consequence of the war mentioned in 2 Kings iii., viz., the vengeance which the Moabites took for what they suffered on that occasion.
The chapter opens with a vision. The temple, shaken by the Angel of the Lord in its very foundations, falls down, and buries Judah and Israel under its ruins. Without a figure, -- the breach of the Covenant by the Covenant-people brings destruction upon them. The prophet endeavours to strengthen the impression of this threatening upon their mind, by breaking down the supports of false security by which they sought to evade it. There is no deliverance, no escape, vers.2-4, for the Almighty God is the enemy and pursuer, vers.5, 6. There is no mercy on account of the Covenant, for Israel is no more the Covenant-people. They shall not, however, be altogether destroyed; but the destruction of the sinful mass shall be accompanied by the preservation of a small number of the godly, vers.7-10. This great sifting is followed, however, by the restoration; the tabernacle of David which is fallen, the kingdom of God among Israel, connected with the family of David, shall be raised up again, ver.11; rendered glorious by its extension over the heathen, ver.12; and blessed with the abundance of the divine gifts, vers.12-15.
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Ver.1. "I saw the Lord standing over the altar; and He said, Smite the chapiter, and make the thresholds tremble, and break them upon the heads of all; and I will kill their remnant by the sword: he that fleeth away of them shall not flee away, and he that escapeth of them shall not be delivered."
The principal question which here arises is: -- Who is here addressed, -- to whom is the commission of destruction given by the Lord? As, in accordance with the dramatic character of the prophetical discourse, the person is not more definitely marked out, we can think of Him only who, throughout, executes God's judgments upon the enemies of His kingdom. But He is the same to whom the preservation and protection of the true members of His kingdom are committed, viz., the Angel of the Lord. It was He, who, as [Hebrew: hmwHit], the destroying Angel, smote the first-born of Egypt, Exod. xii.2, 3, compared with 12, 13. It was from Him that the destruction of the [Pg 364] Assyrians proceeded, 2 Kings xix.34, 35; Is. xxxvii.35, 36. After the numbering of Israel, when the anger of the Lord was kindled against them, it was He who inflicted the punishment, 2 Sam. xxiv.1, 15, 16. As He encampeth round about them who fear the Lord, so He is, in regard to the ungodly, like the wind which carries away the chaff, Ps. xxxiv.8, xxxv.5, 6. -- In opposition to the objection raised by Baur, -- "That, with the exception of the passage in Is. vi., nowhere, in the books composed before the Chaldee period, do angels appear to act as mediators in the execution of the divine commands," -- it is sufficient to refer to Joel iv. (iii.) 9-11, and, as regards the Angel of the Lord, to Hosea xii.5 (4). But we have, in addition, a special reason for thinking here of the Angel of the Lord. This is afforded to us by the ninth chapter of Ezekiel, which must be considered, throughout, as a further expansion of the verse under consideration, and as the oldest and most trustworthy commentary upon it. In that chapter, there appear (at the command of the Lord who is about to avenge the apostasy of His people) the servants of His justice -- six in number -- and in the midst of them, "a man clothed with linen;" -- the former, with instruments of destruction; the latter, with writing materials. They step (the scene is in the temple) by the side of the brazen altar. Thither there comes to them out of the holy of holies, to the threshold of the temple, the glory of the Lord, and gives to Him who is clothed with linen the commission to preserve the faithful, while the others receive a commission to destroy the ungodly, without mercy. But now, Who is the man clothed in linen? None other than the Angel of the Lord. This appears from Daniel x.5, xii.6, 7, where Michael = the Angel of the Lord (compare Dissertations on the Genuineness of Daniel, p.135 ff.) is designated in the same way, -- a remarkable coincidence in these two contemporary prophets, to which we omitted to direct attention in our work on Daniel. It is further evident from the subject itself. The dress is that of the earthly high priest (Theodoret remarks: "The dress of the seventh is that of the high priest, for he was not one of the destroyers, but the redeemer of those who were worthy of salvation"); compare Lev. xvi.4, 23. It is especially from the former of these passages that the plural [Hebrew: bdiM] is to be accounted for. According to it, the various parts [Pg 365] of the high priest's dress are of linen. But the heavenly Mediator, High Priest, and Intercessor, is the Angel of the Lord; compare, e.g., Zech. i.12, where He makes intercession for the Covenant-people, and the Lord answers Him with good and comfortable words. Concerning the earthly high priest as a type of Christ, and hence a type of the Angel of the Lord, compare the remarks on Zech. iii. But we must not imagine that He who is clothed with linen is commissioned solely for the work of delivering the godly, and hence stands contrasted with the six ministers of justice. On the contrary, these are rather to be considered as being subordinate to Him, as carrying out the work of destruction only by His command and authority. From Him, punishment no less than salvation proceeds. This is sufficiently evident for general reasons. The punishment and deliverance have both the same root, the same aim, viz., the advancement of the kingdom of God. We cannot by any means think of evil angels in the case of the six; such could be assumed only in opposition to the whole doctrine of Scripture on the point, which is always consistent in ascribing the punishment of the wicked to the good angels, and the temptation of the godly, with the permission of God, to the evil angels. In proof of this, we have only to think of Job's trial, of Christ's temptation, and of the angel of Satan by whom Paul was buffeted. This subject has already been very well treated by Ode, who, in his work De Angelis, p.741 ff., says: "God sends good angels to punish wicked men, and He employs evil angels to chasten the godly." But if this be established, it is then established at the same time, that the judgment here belongs to the Angel of the Lord. For to Him, as the Prince of the heavenly host, all inferior angels are subordinate, so that everything [Pg 366] which they do belongs to Him. -- To these general reasons, we may, however, add special reasons which are altogether decisive. That He who is clothed with linen is closely connected with the six, is indicated by the number seven. He also appears at the side of the altar, and comes in the midst of the others, who follow after Him, ver.2. But of conclusive significance are the words in chap. x.2 and 7: "And the Lord spake unto the man clothed with linen, and said, Go in between the wheels under the cherubim, and fill Thine hand with coals of fire from between the cherubim, and scatter them over the city. And He went in, in my sight. And a cherub stretched forth his hand from between the cherubim, unto the fire that was between the cherubim, and took, and put it into the hands of Him who was clothed with linen. And He took it and went out." The fire here is not the symbolical designation of wrath, but natural fire; for it is the setting on fire and burning of the city which is here to be prefigured. The wheels denote the natural powers, -- in the first instance, the wind, chap. x.13, but the fire also; while the cherubim denote the living creation. The Angel of the Lord is here expressly designated as He who executeth the judgments of divine justice.
The importance of the preceding investigation extends beyond the mere clearing up of the passage under consideration. We have here obtained the Old Testament foundation for the New Testament doctrine, that all judgment has been committed to the Son, while the harmony of the two Testaments is exhibited in a remarkable instance. Compare with the already cited Old Testament declarations, such passages as Matt. xiii.41: [Greek: Apostelei ho huios tou anthropou tous angelous hautou, kai sullexousin ek tes basileias autou panta ta skandala, kai tous poiountas ten anomian.] and xxv.31: [Greek: hOtan de elthe ho huios tou anthropou en te doxe hautou, kai pantes hoi angeloi met' autou, tote kathisei epi thronou doxes hautou.] In order to be convinced of the identity of the Angel of the Lord and Christ (compare above, p.107 sqq. and Commentary on Rev. i. p.466), we may further direct attention to the fact that the Angel of the Lord, who meets us throughout the whole of the Old Testament, suddenly disappears in the New Testament, and that to Christ all is ascribed which was in the Old Testament attributed to the Angel of the Lord.
A second important question is: -- What is to be understood by the altar, [Hebrew: hmzbH]? Several interpreters adopt the opinion of Cyril, and think of the altar at Bethel, or some other idolatrous altar in the kingdom of Israel. Others (e.g., Marckius) are of opinion that the article stands here without meaning, and that it is the intention of the prophet only to represent God as appearing on some altar, leaving it undetermined on which, in order thereby to indicate that He required the blood of many men. But against such expositions the article is conclusive. The altar can be that altar only, of which every one would think, if an altar [Greek: kat' exochen], and without a more definite designation, were spoken of. Such was the brazen altar, or altar of burnt-offering in the outer court of the temple at Jerusalem. That it was this altar, and not the altar of incense before the holy of holies, which received, in the common language of the people, the name of the altar, is easily explained from the circumstance that it stood in a much closer relation to the people than did the other which was withdrawn from their view. On this altar all the sacrifices were offered, and it must, throughout, be understood, when the altar of the Lord is spoken of; compare remarks on Rev. vi.9. But that which removes all doubt is the comparison with the parallel passage in Ezekiel. There, the scene is the temple at Jerusalem. The ministers of justice step beside the brazen altar. At the threshold of the temple-building proper, the glory of the Lord moves toward them. This parallel passage, moreover, does not leave any doubt as to the reason why the Lord appears here beside the altar. Jerome remarks on this: "They are introduced standing beside the altar, ready for the order of their commander; so that they know every one whose sins are not forgiven, and who is liable, therefore, to the sentence of the Lord, and to destruction." The Lord's appearing beside the altar is a visible representation of the truth, that wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together. The altar is the place of transgression; it is there that there lies accumulated the unexpiated guilt of the whole nation, instead of the rich treasure of love and faith, which alone should be there, embodied in the sacrifice. The Lord appears at the place of transgression, in order that He may be glorified in the destruction of those who would not glorify Him in their lives. [Pg 368] -- Now several interpreters (e.g., Michaelis), who have correctly defined the meaning of the altar, would infer from the mention of the temple at Jerusalem, that the whole prophecy refers to the kingdom of Judah. But such an assumption is altogether inadmissible. Even the general reason, that a prophecy which refers exclusively to Judah cannot be at all expected from a prophet who had received his special mission to Israel, militates against it. Further, -- The close of this prophecy, the proclamation of salvation, belongs, as we have already proved, to the whole collection. If this be referred to Judah alone, there is then an essential element awanting in that portion which is addressed to Israel; we should then have judgment without mercy, threatening without consolation, -- a thing which could not well be conceived of, and would be without analogy in any of the prophets. To this we must further add the express references, or co-references to Israel throughout the whole chapter, -- such as the mention of Carmel in ver.3; of the children of Israel, in ver.7; of the house of Jacob, in ver.8; of the house of Israel, in ver.9; of [Hebrew: prcihN], in ver.11; of My people Israel, in ver.14. The whole assumption of an exclusive reference to Judah owes its origin to the circumstance, that features which are only symbolical have been erroneously interpreted as actual. But if they be viewed and explained as symbols, every reason for denying the reference to Israel is then at once removed. The temple symbolizes the kingdom of God; its falling down upon the people is symbolical of the punishment which is inflicted upon them, in consequence of this kingdom. The destruction of the temple in the literal sense is not, primarily, spoken of; although the latter, it is true, be inseparable from the former. If the Covenant-people in general were outwardly desecrated, because they had desecrated themselves inwardly, then also the outward sanctuary which they had, by their wickedness, converted into a den of thieves, was taken from them; compare the remarks on Dan. ix.27. If Israel then, at that time, still belonged to the kingdom of God (and this can certainly not be doubted, and is sufficiently proved by the very mission of our prophet to Israel), there exists no reason at all for excluding it. For Israel also, the temple at Jerusalem formed the seat and centre from which it was governed, -- the place from which blessings and punishments [Pg 369] proceeded. The prophet indeed, at the very opening of his prophecies, describes the Lord as roaring from Zion, and uttering His voice from Jerusalem. On the altar at Jerusalem the crimes of Israel were deposited, no less than those of Judah; for there was the place where the people of both kingdoms were to deposit the embodied expression of their godly disposition. It was there, then, that, in reality, the fruits of the opposite were lying, although, as regards the place, they were offered elsewhere. -- So much indeed is certain, that the co-reference to Judah is necessarily required by the symbolical representation. The rejection of Israel alone could not be symbolized by the destruction of the temple. And no less does this appear from the announcement of salvation. For this does not by any means promise the re-establishment of the Davidic dominion among the people of Israel, but the restoration of the entire fallen Davidic government. The tabernacle of David that is fallen refers to the destroyed temple. Both signify, substantially, the same thing. With the destruction of the temple, the Davidic tabernacle also fell; and its fall included the overthrow of the kingdom of Israel; for, in this also, the Davidic race had still the dominion de jure, although it was suspended de facto.
The passage under consideration is remarkable also, inasmuch as it furnishes a proof for the custom of designating the kingdom of God from its existing seat and centre, and thus furnishes us, for other passages also, with the right of freeing the thought from the figurative clothing.
A further reason against referring the altar to the altar at Bethel, is, that the latter enjoyed no such pre-eminence in the kingdom of Israel. The temple at Bethel was, to the ten tribes, by no means what the temple at Jerusalem was to Judah. The law regarding the unity of the place of worship was, among the ten tribes, regarded as non-existing. Even in the verse immediately preceding, in viii.14, Dan and Beersheba had been mentioned as the chief seats of the Israelitish worship; and in chap. iv.4, Gilgal appears beside Bethel as possessing the same importance. In chap. v.5, Bethel, Gilgal, and Beersheba are mentioned together. Hosea, in chap. viii.11, reproves Israel for having made many altars to sin. Hence, there did not exist in Israel an altar [Greek: kat' exochen]. Such an altar existed only in [Pg 370] Judah. Nor had the sanctuary at Bethel such importance, as that it could be considered as the spiritual abode of the whole people. -- Hofmann (Weissagung u. Erfuellung, S.203) raises the following objection against the reference to the altar at Jerusalem: -- "The prophet, it is true, reproves the sins in Judah as well as those in Israel; but it is only to the kingdom of Jeroboam that he announces destruction, while to the house of David he promises that Jehovah would raise it up from its fallen condition." But in opposition to this objection, we need only refer to ii.5: "And I send fire in Judah, and it devours the palaces of Jerusalem." Passages such as i.14, 15, ii.3, absolutely forbid us to make an exception of the palace of the king; and, by chap. vii.9, where destruction is announced to all the sanctuaries of Isaac, we have as little warrant for excepting the temple. To assume any such exceptions, would be contrary to the analogy of all other threatenings. Hofmann further objects (l. c. S.204), "As the threatening announcement of the prophet had last remained suspended over Israel, we are at liberty to think of the altar at Bethel only." But already, in the third chapter, all Israel is addressed, according to ver.1; and we may further refer to v.25, where likewise Israel can mean only the whole people, while in vi.1, Judah is expressly mentioned beside Israel. The prophet employs, throughout, the name of Israel with a certain ambiguity; so that it would be vain to attempt to determine whether it be used in the wider, or in the more limited sense. Wherever he wishes to be distinctly understood as speaking of the ten tribes, he speaks of Joseph and Samaria. Still less would the prophet have employed the names of Jacob (iii.13, vi.8, vii.2, 6) and of Isaac (vii.9, 16), which were quite uncommon as a designation of the ten tribes, [Pg 371] if it had been of importance, and intentional on his part strictly to separate the boundaries of Judah from those of Israel, and, if there were not everywhere here, only a special application to the ten tribes of that which concerned the whole who were connected by a common fate. But it is especially suitable, that just the close of the whole should, in a remarkably distinct manner, bring into view the two kingdoms, the destinies of which were so intimately connected. -- Hitzig, further, with a view to favour the reference to the temple in Bethel, adduces the consideration that this vision is connected with the close of viii.14, and forms a kind of explanation of it. But we have here an entirely new beginning, just as in chap. viii. in its relation to chap. vii. The three visions are altogether independent of, and co-ordinate with each other. -- [Hebrew: nbc] with [Hebrew: el] is commonly used of a prominent position at the side of: Gen. xviii.2; 1 Sam. iv.20; compare [Hebrew: emd] with [Hebrew: el] 1 Kings xiii.1. In Ezek. ix.1 also, the angels stand at the side of the brazen altar, [Hebrew: ncb] can, of course, never signify "to be suspended." -- [Hebrew: hkptvr] is a species of ornament at the top of the pillars; and [Hebrew: hspiM], "the thresholds," are contrasted with each other, in order to give expression to the thought that the building was to be shaken, and destroyed from the highest part of it to the lowest, -- from the top to the bottom. The shaking of the thresholds occurs also in Is. vi. to denote that the shaking extended to the deepest foundations. The greater number of interpreters translate: "Strike the knop so that ... tremble," etc.; but the [Hebrew: virewv] must be viewed rather as co-ordinate with [Hebrew: hK]: "And they may tremble," equivalent to "Make to tremble." -- The suffix in [Hebrew: bceM] refers to the knops and threshold, or to the entire building, which is marked out by the contrast of the highest and lowest portions. According to Ewald and Umbreit, it is intended to refer to the dashed pieces of the altar; but nothing has been said about the destruction of the altar. In Ezek. ix.2 likewise, the altar is mentioned, not because it was to be destroyed, but only because there the guilt is heaped up. The casting down does not, in itself, imply the breaking, dashing into pieces; it does so only by its being connected with the following [Hebrew: braw]. The passage in Jer. xlix.20 is analogous: "He shall make their habitation desolate over them;" instead of: "He shall thus make it desolate that they are buried beneath its ruins;" [Pg 372] compare Jer. l.45. [Hebrew: braw], properly understood, does not mean "upon the head;" the head is rather represented as the receptacle of the tumbling ruins; they fall into their heads and crush them; compare Ps. vii.17. In what precedes, there is no definite noun to which [Hebrew: klM] refers. This is to be explained by the dramatic character of the whole representation which arises necessarily from the opening phrase: "I saw." The same reason accounts for the peculiarity of [Hebrew: hK] being employed without any designation of person. In his inward vision, the prophet sees the whole people assembled before the Lord at the threshold of the temple. The Lord appears before him as the judge, at the place of the transgressions, at the side of the altar. At His command, the whole assembled multitude are buried under the ruins of the temple. From this also it is evident that a destruction of the temple in a literal sense cannot be entertained; for how could a whole people be buried under its ruins? The same appears also from [Hebrew: raiti] at the commencement. This, then, shows that we have here before us a symbolical representation, corresponding altogether to that which we have in vii.1, 4, 7, viii.1. Hitherto, the Lord speaking to some one, had given him the commission of destruction. He now continues with: "I will kill." This also shows that the one who is addressed is the Angel of the Lord. The same occurrence takes place in the greater number of the passages in which the Angel of the Lord is spoken of. In the action there is constant alternation; it is ascribed, at one time to Him, at another, to Jehovah. -- Several interpreters (Marckius, De Wette, Rueckert, and others) explain [Hebrew: ahrit] by "posterity;" others, after the example of the Chaldee ([Hebrew: warhvN]), by "remnant;" and others, by "lowest of the people." We must here enter into a closer examination of the significations of this word. It is commonly supposed (compare Gesenius and Winer) that, primarily and properly, it signifies "the last and extreme part," and then "the end." But that which is supposed to be the derived signification is rather the original and proper one. The form of the word cannot furnish any reason why this should not be the case, as is evident from what has been remarked by Ewald: "As the feminine termination, in general, forms abstract nouns, so also, not unfrequently, abstract nouns are derived from other nouns, by means of the termination [Hebrew: -it]; very frequently there is no [Pg 373] masculine in [Hebrew: -i] at all at the foundation, but [Hebrew: -it] serves, in general, only as the sign of derivation." The following reasons prove that the signification "end" is the primary and proper one.1. If the contrary were the case, the masculine [Hebrew: -i] would also occur, and the feminine would be met with as an adjective also.2. [Hebrew: rawit] forms the constant antithesis to [Hebrew: ahrit]; but it is universally admitted that the former is, originally and properly, an abstract noun, and signifies "beginning." The signification "end" must then be retained here also. The word never has another signification (compare my work on Balaam, p.465 ff.); it means only "end" in Its various relations. But the posterity cannot here be thought of as the end; for the whole action is concentrated in one point of time. Nor is the word ever used in the sense of "posterity." With as little propriety can "end" mean "the lowest of the people;" for one cannot see why just these should be given up to the sword. "End," here, rather denotes "remnant," -- all those who, at the overthrow of the temple, might escape. These, the Lord will pursue with the sword. They who were buried under the temple are the beginning, [Hebrew: rawit]; the latter are the [Hebrew: ahrit], end. Corresponding to the shaking of the temple from the knops to the thresholds, the thought is expressed in this manner, that from the first to the last, [Hebrew: klM mqch] they should be subjected to the divine punishment. An implied antithesis of quite the same kind, of [Hebrew: aHrit] to [Hebrew: rawit] occurs also In iv.2 (where De Wette and Rueckert have likewise mistaken the sense), and in viii.10. -- On the last words of the verse, which are to be considered as a further explanation of, "Their end, or remnant, I will kill by the sword," Cocceius remarks: "This slaughter becomes the more thorough, inasmuch as even they who flee, or seemed to have fled, are not excluded from it." The second member seems to contradict the first; for if none be allowed to flee away, how can any have escaped? Several Interpreters have been thereby induced to give to the verb [Hebrew: nvs] the first time, the signification "to escape," -- the second time, "to flee." But the contradiction is quite similar to that which occurs in the preceding context also, when all are dashed to pieces by the ruins, and yet a remnant is spoken of. It soon disappears when we consider that it Is the intention of the prophet to cut off every possible way of escape, by which carnal security endeavoured to save [Pg 374] and preserve itself against the impression of his discourse -- that it is equivalent to: "All shall be buried under the ruins, and although some should succeed in escaping from this kind of destruction, yet the sword of divine vengeance would be behind them, and slay them; flight shall not be possible to any man; and even although it might be to some, it would be of no avail to them, for God would be their persecutor." But another apparent contradiction must not be overlooked. Even here, the destruction is most emphatically described as being quite general; as such, it is minutely represented in vers.2-4. One cannot fail to see how anxious the prophet is to cut off, from every individual, the idea of the possibility of an escape. On the other hand, it is announced in ver.8, that the house of Jacob shall not be utterly destroyed; according to ver.9, all the godly shall be preserved; according to ver.10, the judgment is to be limited to the sinners from among the people, -- a limitation which is also presupposed by the description in the 11th and subsequent verses. In iii.12, the preservation of a small remnant amidst the general destruction had been promised. The greater number of interpreters, in order to reconcile this apparent contradiction, assume an hyperbole in vers.1-4. But this assumption is certainly erroneous. The ground of this great copiousness, -- the reason why the prophet represents the same thought in aspects so various, -- is evidently to prevent every idea of an hyperbole, -- to show that the words are to be taken in all their strictness of meaning. But the limitation may be arrived at, and effected in a different, and legitimate way. There is, in the nature of ungodliness, a levity which flatters every individual with the hope of escape, even although a threatened general calamity should take place. All the possibilities of deliverance are sought after in such a disposition of mind, and are, by imagination, easily changed into probabilities and realities, because just that is wanting which proves them to be improbable and unreal, viz., the consciousness of a living, omnipotent God. Thus men free themselves from fear, and with it, from the troublesome obligation of escaping from it in another and a legitimate way, viz., by true conversion. Now, it is this levity which the prophet opposes. He shows that whatever possibility of deliverance such levity may dream of, it never would become a reality, and this [Pg 375] for the simple reason, that they had not to deal with human antagonists; from them an escape by human means would be possible, how powerful and wise soever they might be. But they have to deal with an omnipotent God, who, being also omnipresent, can arm all His creatures against His despisers, so that they cannot retreat to any place where He, who reigneth absolutely in heaven and on earth, has not ministers of His vengeance. Every thought, then, of an escape by human means is here cut off. But with this, every thought of deliverance in any way is taken from the ungodly, who are told by their own consciences that GOD will not deliver them. But, on the other hand, the same consideration could not but administer consolation to the godly. If no one, should he even hide himself in heaven, can escape from God the Avenger, then no one, were he even in the midst of his enemies, and were the sword even already lifted up against him, can be lost from God the Deliverer. -- Another question has been asked, which relates to the historical reference of the threatened punishment. It goes just as far as the thought which lies at its foundation: "You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I shall visit upon you all your transgressions." Those interpreters who think exclusively of either the Assyrian, or the Chaldean, or the Roman destruction, are, in the same way, partly right and partly wrong, at the same time. All these events, and others besides, belong essentially to one whole. The difference as to time and circumstances is that which is unessential. That a prophet had exclusively in view any single one from among those divine manifestations of punishment, can be asserted, only where he himself has given express declarations to such an effect; and even then, the prophecy is limited to that single event, as to its form only: its idea is not lost by the single fulfilment.
Ver.2. "If they break through into hell, from thence My hand shall take them; if they ascend up into heaven, from thence I will take them down."
The Future must not, either here, or in what follows, be understood as potentialis: "Though they should conceal themselves;" but as the real Future: "If they are to conceal themselves." That [Hebrew: aM] with the Future is used only de re dubia, as Winer asserts, is as erroneous as to assert that, with the Preterite, [Pg 376] it supposes the condition as existing. The correct view has been already given by Gesenius in the Thesaurus. By supposing the possibility of a condition, impossible in reality, the denial of the consequence becomes so much the more emphatic and expressive. That such a supposition is made here, is evident from ver.4, where the prophet passes over to the territory of actual possibility, and where, therefore, we cannot translate: "Though they should go." Such a supposition is, in general, very frequent. It occurs, e.g., Matt. v.29, where Tholuch (Comment. on the Sermon on the Mount) has been led very far astray from the right understanding of [Greek: ei de ho ophthalmos sou ho dexios skandalizei se, k.t.l.], by overlooking this usus loquendi. We are not indeed at liberty to translate, "Though thy right eye should offend thee;" but it must be decided by other arguments, whether the condition here supposed be one really possible; and these arguments show that it is only for the sake of greater emphasis that there has here been supposed as possible, what is impossible. -- Heaven and Sheol form a constant contrast between the highest height and the lowest depth. From a merely imagined possibility, the prophet descends to the real one. If, then, even the former be not able to afford protection, because God's hand reaches even where one has escaped far from any human power, how much less the latter! -- [Hebrew: Htr] with the Accus. signifies "to break through," Job xxiv.16; with [Hebrew: b], "to make a hole in anything;" thus Ezek. viii.8, xii.7, 12 ([Hebrew: Htr bqir], "to make a hole in the wall"). These parallel passages show that the Sheol must be conceived of as being surrounded with strong walls, -- by which is expressed its inaccessibility to all that is living. The fundamental passage is in Ps. cxxxix.7, 8: "Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit, and whither shall I flee from Thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven. Thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, Thou art there." David does not here speak in his own person, but in that of his whole race. The Psalm is an indirect exhortation to his successors on the throne, and at the same time to the people. "If you are wicked," so he here addresses them, "you can never hope to escape from the punishing hand of the Almighty." And since they have become wicked, the words of David have acquired new emphasis.
Ver.3. "And if they hide themselves on the top of Carmel, [Pg 377] from thence I will search and take them out; and if they hide themselves from My sight in the bottom, of the sea, from thence I will command the serpent, and he bites them."
The question here is: -- Why is Carmel specially mentioned? Interpreters remind us of the numerous caves of this mountain, which make it peculiarly suitable for concealment. O. F. von Richter, in the Wallfahrten im Morgenlande, S.65, remarks on this point: "The caves are extremely numerous in Carmel, especially on the west side. It is said that there are more than a thousand, and that they were inhabited in ancient times by monks, to whom, however, their origin cannot be ascribed. In one part of the mountain, called 'the caves of the members of the orders,' 400 are found beside each other. Farther down in the hard limestone mountain, there is one which is distinguished by its size, about 20 paces long, and more than 15 broad and high." Details still more accurate are given by Schulz in the Leitungen des Hoechsten, Th.5, S.186, 303. According to him, the road is pure rock, and very smooth, and so crooked, that those going before cannot see those who follow them. "When we were only ten paces distant from each other, we heard each other's voices, indeed, but were invisible to each other, on account of the winding ways made in consequence of the intervening by-hills.... Everywhere there are caves, and their mouths are often so small that only one man can creep through at a time; the approaches to them are so serpentine, that he who is pursued may escape from his pursuer, and step into such a small opening, of which there are frequently three or four beside each other, before his pursuer is aware of it. Hence, if any one should hide himself there, it is exceedingly difficult, yea, even impossible for the eyes of man to discover him who is pursued." But this circumstance alone does not exhaust the case, even if we still further add that the mountain was then, as it is now (Richter, S.66), covered with trees and shrubberies up to the summit. The expression, "In the top," must not be overlooked, and the less so, since it stands in evident antithesis to the "bottom of the sea," -- like the contrast of height and depth in the preceding verse. Heaven and hell are represented on earth by the top of Carmel, and the bottom of the sea. The height of Carmel must, therefore, come also into consideration. This, it is true, is not very great; Buckingham* [Pg 378] estimated it at 1500 feet (v. Raumer, S.40); but the prophet chose Carmel in preference to other higher mountains, partly on account of the peculiarity already stated; partly, and especially, on account of its position in the immediate neighbourhood of the sea, over which its summit hangs, and which can be seen to a great distance from it; compare 1 Kings xviii.43, 44. Of corporeal things it holds true, as it does of spiritual things, that opposites, placed beside each other, become thereby more distinct. A lower elevation, placed by the side of a depth, appears to the unscientific eye to be much higher than another which is really so. Moreover, the position of Carmel at the extreme western border of the kingdom of Israel must also be considered. He who hides himself there, must certainly be ignorant of any safer place in the whole country; and if even then there be no more security, the sea alone is left. -- [Hebrew: cvh] occurs frequently with the signification "to bid," to "command." The word is chosen on purpose to show, how even the irrational creatures stand in the service of the omnipotent God; so that it requires only a word from Him to make them the instruments of His vengeance. That the prophet had a knowledge of a very dangerous kind of sea-serpents (of which Pliny xix.4 speaks), need not be supposed on account of the [Hebrew: mwM]. That was not of the slightest consequence here. In v.19 the serpent occurs in a particularizing representation of the thought that God is able to arm all nature against His enemies: "As if a man flees from the lion, and a bear meets him; and he comes home, and leans his hand on the wall, and a serpent bites him" -- just the opposite of the assurance that "to those who love God, all things shall work together for good." So early as in Deut. xxxii.24, apostates are threatened with the poison of the serpents of the dust, besides the teeth of wild beasts; and what this threatening implied, might have been well known to Israel from their former history; compare Num. xxi.6: "And the Lord sent against the people serpents, and they bit the people, and much people of Israel died," -- a passage to which Jeremiah alludes in chap. viii.17, where he says; "For behold I send against you serpents, basilisks, against which there is no charm, and they bite you, saith the Lord." It is very probable that to this the prophet also alludes in the passage before us.
Ver.4. "And if they go into captivity before their enemies, from thence will I command the sword, and it slayeth them; and I set Mine eyes upon them for evil and not for good."
[Hebrew: bwbi] means the state of exile. The circumstance of their being carried into captivity might awaken the hope that mercy will be granted to them; for, according to the natural course of things, he who is carried away into captivity may be sure of his life; but nothing can give security before God. The last words are strikingly illustrated by Calvin, who says: "There is an antithesis in this sentence, inasmuch as God had promised that He would be the protector of His people. But as hypocrites are always apt to appropriate to themselves the promises of God, without having either repentance or faith, the prophet here declares, that the eye of God would be upon them, not to protect them, as was His custom, but rather to add punishments to punishments. And this sentence is worthy of notice, inasmuch as we are thereby reminded, that although the Lord does by no means spare infidels. He yet observes us more closely in order to punish us the more severely, when He sees that we are utterly hardened and incurable." Under any circumstances, the people of the Lord continue to be the objects of special attention. They are more richly blessed; but they are also more severely punished.
Ver.5. "And the Lord, Jehovah, of hosts, who toucheth the earth, and it melteth, and all that dwell therein mourn; and it riseth up wholly like the stream, and it sinketh down as the stream of Egypt."
The prophet continues to cut off every false hope with which levity flatters itself. How can you think to escape, since you have the Almighty God for your enemy! "The prophet," remarks Jerome, "speaks thus, in order to impress them with the greatness of divine power, that they might not imagine that He would perhaps not do what He had threatened, or that His power was not equal to His will." Similar descriptions of the divine omnipotence, as opposed to unbelief and weak faith, are very numerous; e.g., iv.13, v.8, 27; Is. xl.22, xlv.12. We are not at liberty to translate: "And the Lord Jehovah of hosts is He who toucheth." It is rather an abrupt mode of speech; and there must be supplied, either at the beginning, "And who is your enemy?" or at the end, "He is your opponent." [Pg 380] This abruptness of language is quite in accordance with the subject, and belongs, moreover, to the characteristic peculiarities of Amos. Altogether similar is v.7, 8, where Israel and their God are simply placed beside each other, and every one is left to conclude for himself how such a God would act towards such a people: "They who turn judgment to wormwood, and cast righteousness to the earth. Making the Pleiades and Orion, and turning the shadow of death into the morning, and making the day dark with night, calling," etc. The accumulated appellations. Lord, Jehovah, of hosts, likewise serve to point out the omnipotence of God. The believer accumulates these appellations in his prayer in order to awaken his confidence and hope; compare, e.g., Is. xxxvii.16, where Hezekiah begins his prayer to the Lord thus: "Jehovah, of hosts, God of Israel, Thou who art enthroned on Cherubim, Thou art God alone for all the kingdoms of the earth." But these appellations are held up to the unbelievers, to cast down all their hopes. We have separated, of hosts, from the preceding appellation of God by a comma. Ever since Gesenius, in his Commentary on Is. i.9, has asserted that [Hebrew: cbavt] when connected with Jehovah, must be considered as a Genitive depending upon it, his view has been pretty generally adopted. But it is certainly erroneous. The instances by which Gesenius endeavours to prove the possibility of such a connection of proper names with appellative names are not to the point. In "Bethlehem Jehudah" it is only by a false interpretation that Jehudah is considered as standing in the status constr. with Bethlehem (compare the remarks on Mic. v.1 ); and with regard to [Hebrew: arM nhriM] it is to be remarked that, in consequence of its many divisions, [Hebrew: arM] loses the nature of a proper name. The two words, Jehovah Zebaoth, can no more be immediately connected with each other than Jehovah (which is as perfect a proper name as ever existed) ever has, or ever can have, the article. Let us only consider the phrase [Hebrew: alhiM cbavt] in Ps. lxxx.15, and elsewhere, where a status constr. is out of the question; and, further, the fact that wherever, as in the case under review, Adonai precedes, the Mazorets have always given to [Hebrew: ihvh] the points of [Hebrew: alhiM] but never of [Hebrew: alhi]; and let us, finally, consider the far more frequent, full expression, [Hebrew: ihvh alhi hcbavt] (e.g., iii.13, iv.13, v.14), and we shall be convinced, that even where the [Pg 381] simple [Hebrew: ihvh hcbavt] occurs, not indeed [Hebrew: alhi] is simply to be supplied (if such were the case, why is it that [Hebrew: hcbavt] never occurs alone?), but that the notion of the Lord is to be taken from the preceding designations of the sovereignty of God. Compare on [Hebrew: cbavt] the remarks in my Commentary on Ps. xxiv.10, where those also are refuted who, like Maurer (in his Comment. on Is. i.9), maintain that it had simply become a name of God. -- The manifestations of God's omnipotence are, after the general intimations of it are given, just such as might now be expected; compare viii.8. The Fut. with Vav Conv. [Hebrew: vtmvz] does not here denote the Past, "And it melted," but only the consequence of the preceding action, as continuous as that: "Who toucheth the earth, and it melteth." A dissolution of the earth is to be thought of, -- similar to that condition in which it was before the days of creation, and similar to its condition during the great flood. Such a condition of dissolution takes place also when the earth is visited by mighty kings desirous of making conquests. "Who toucheth the earth, and it melteth," -- the truth of these words Israel had first to learn by sad experience when the wild hosts of Asshur were poured out over the West of Asia. The passage in Ps. xlvi.7 is parallel, where it is said: "The heathen rage, kingdoms are shaken; He uttereth His voice (which corresponds with, 'Who toucheth the earth,' in the verse before us), and the earth melteth." The [Hebrew: mvz], "to melt," "to dissolve," signifies, in that passage, the dissolving effect of the divine judgments, the instruments of which are the conquerors. Further, -- Ps. lxx.4: "The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are melted," -- by the success of the conqueror of the world, the earth is, as it were, dissolved, and sunk back into the chaotic state of primitive time. -- The words, "And it riseth up," are to be explained from the fact that the earth, changed into a great stream, cannot be distinguished from the water which covers it. The earth rises up, it is overflowed, -- the earth sinks down, the water subsides. The last clause of the verse must not be translated -- as is done by Rosenmueller, Gesenius, Maurer -- "It is overflowed as by the stream of Egypt." This explanation is unphilological, and contrary, at the same time, to the parallelism, which requires that [Hebrew: kiar] be, both the times, understood in the same way. The verb [Hebrew: wqe] means only "to sink," "to sink down," and is used of the subsiding water, Ezek. xxxii.14; of the subsiding flame, [Pg 382] Num. xi.2; and of a sinking town, Jer. li.64. The last words thus rather contain the opposite of the clause immediately preceding. But the sinking does not, by any means, signify a freedom from the waters, nor is it to be conceived of as remaining. All which is expressed is the change only, -- the ebb takes the place of the flood, and vice versa. This, however, is, on the dry land, a very sad condition. The inundation is here an emblem of hostile overflowing. Water is frequently an emblem of enemies; compare Ps. xviii.17, cxliv.7. Overflowing streams are emblematical of the crowds of nations, who, with a view to conquest, overflow the whole earth. Is. viii.7, 8, xvii.12; Jer. xlvii.2, xlvi.7, 8, where Egypt rises as the Nile, just as, in the case before us, the earth; with this difference, however, that there the rising is an active, while here it is a passive one: "Who is this who riseth like the Nile, whose waters are moved as the rivers? Egypt riseth up like the Nile, and his waters are moved like rivers, and he saith, I will go up and cover the earth, I will destroy the city and the inhabitants thereof;" Ezek. xxxii.14: "Then will I make sink their waters, and cause their rivers to run like oil," equivalent to: The conquering power of Egypt shall cease. Amos viii.8 is a parallel passage, in which, after the description of the prevailing sin, it is said: "Shall not the earth tremble for this, and every one mourn that dwelleth therein? And it riseth up wholly like the Nile, and is agitated, and sinketh down like the Nile of Egypt." The earthquake is the symbol of great revolutions, by which that which is highest is turned upside down; compare Haggai ii.21, 22: "I shake the heavens and the earth, and overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and destroy the strength of the kingdom of the heathen;" while the overflowing is emblematical of hostile inundation, of visitation by war, in which the ebb succeeds the flood, and vice versa. -- In his negligent mode of writing -- which frequently occurs in this book -- the prophet wrote [Hebrew: nwqh] instead of [Hebrew: nwqeh], corresponding to the [Hebrew: wqeh] in the verse under consideration, just as in the same verse he wrote [Hebrew: kar] instead of [Hebrew: kiar]. The Mazorets, who everywhere disregarded the peculiarities of the individual writers, have introduced the common form.
Ver.6. "Who buildeth His upper chambers in the heaven, and His vault -- over the earth He foundeth it: who calleth the waters [Pg 383] of the sea, and poureth them out over the earth -- Jehovah His name."
That [Hebrew: melvt] is here equivalent to [Hebrew: elivt], "upper chambers" (compare 1 Chron. xvii.17, where [Hebrew: melh] occurs with the signification "high place"), is put almost beyond any doubt by the parallel passage, Ps. civ.3: "Who frameth with the waters His upper chambers." The fundamental passage is Gen. i.7: "God made the vault, and divided between the waters which are under the vault, and the waters which are above the vault." "The waters, viz., the upper ones" -- thus we have remarked in our commentary on that passage from the Psalms -- "are the material out of which the structure is reared. To construct, out of the moveable waters, a firm palace, the cloudy sky, firm as a molten looking-glass (Job xxxvii.18), is a magnificent work of divine omnipotence. The palace of clouds, as the upper part of the fabric of the universe, gets the name upper chambers of God; the lower part is the earth." As all the other manifestations of divine omnipotence in vers.5, 6, are such as are to be called into existence now, the upper chambers and the vault will here come into consideration, in so far as from thence the torrents of rain are poured forth; compare Ps. civ.13, according to which the rain cometh from the upper chambers of God; and Gen. vii.11: "The same day broke forth all the fountains of the great flood (the last member of our verse), and the windows of heaven were opened." From the upper chambers of God, whence once, at the time of the deluge, the natural rain came down, the rain of affliction will now descend. -- [Hebrew: wmv] -- [Hebrew: hqvra] already occurred, verbatim, in v.8. [Hebrew: hqvra] stands in the same relation to [Hebrew: viwpkM], as in ver.5 [Hebrew: nvne] does to [Hebrew: vtmvz] and is equivalent to: "Upon whose mere word the waters of the sea cover the surface of the earth;" compare Gen. vi.17: "And, behold, I do bring the flood of waters upon the earth." The sea is the common emblem of the heathen world; compare remarks on Ps. xciii., civ.6-9. In chap. vii.4, the "great flood" is contrasted with the "lot" in Deut. xxxiii.9, -- the heathen world, with the people of God. The fire of war, which the Lord kindles, devours both in the same way. Here, in contrast with the deluge, the conquering inundation of the earth proceeds from the midst of the heathen world, stirred up by the Lord, and destroys first of all unfaithful Israel, who, had they been [Pg 384] faithful to the Covenant, would have been able to say, as in Ps. xlvi.2-4, "God is our refuge and strength, a help in trouble He is found very much. Therefore will we not fear when the earth is overturned, and the mountains shake in the midst of the sea; its waters roar and foam, mountains tremble by its swelling."
Ver.7. "Are you not as the sons of the Cushites 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 Aram from Kir?"
The prophet here deprives the people of another prop of false security. They boasted of their election, by which God Himself, as they imagined, had bound His hands. They considered the pledge of it -- the deliverance from Egypt -- as a charter of security against every calamity, as an obligation to further help in every distress, which God could not retract even if He would. A great truth lay at the foundation of this error, -- a truth which has been disregarded by the greater number of interpreter's, who have, in consequence, forced upon the prophet a sense which is altogether false. The election of the people, and their deliverance from Egypt, were actually what they considered them to be. God Himself had in reality thereby bound His hands; He was obliged to deliver the people. He could not cast them off. The election was an act of free grace; the manifestation of it in deeds was an act of His righteousness. The people had a right to remind Him of His duty, when He seemed not to perform it. Their election was then a firm anchorage of hope, a rich source of consolation, the foundation of all their prayers. But the error consisted in this, that the election was usurped by those to whom it did not belong, -- an error which is continually repeating itself, and which shows itself in a fearful form, especially in the case of those who believe in the doctrine of Predestination. We need, for example, refer only to Cromwell, who, in the hour of death, silenced, by this false consolation, all the accusations of his [Pg 385] conscience. [Greek: Peritome men gar hophelei], says the Apostle, in Rom. ii.25, [Greek: ean nomon prasses. ean de parabates nomou es, he peritome sou akrobustia gegonen]. The deliverance from Egypt stands on the same footing as circumcision. The former also was profitable; to those who showed themselves to be children of Israel, it afforded the certainty that God would prove Himself to be their God. For those, however, who had become degenerate, it entered altogether into the circle of ordinary events. For them, it became something that had altogether passed away -- that did not carry within itself any pledge of renovation. This error is here laid open by the prophet, as he had already done in v.14: "Seek good and not evil, that ye may live, and thus the Lord, the God of hosts, be with you." He directs their attention to the fact, that, in the Covenant-relation, which rests on reciprocity, the party who broke the Covenant had nothing to ask, nothing to hope for. "Be not," etc.; the tertium comparationis is evidently the alienation from God. The "children of Israel" (the appellation expressive of their dignity is intentionally chosen in order to make more striking the contradiction between the appearance and the reality) have become so degenerate, that they are no more any nearer to God than the sons of the Cushites. Those interpreters who regard sin alone as the tertium comparationis (Cocceius says: "Ye are so alienated from Him, and so unfaithful, that every one of you may be called a Cushite"), give too limited a sense to the expression. "You are to Me," is rather equivalent to, "I have not any more concern in you, you stand not to Me in any other relation." But why are the Cushites alone mentioned as an example of a people alienated from God? Their colour, perhaps, is more to be considered in this, than their descent from Ham; the physical blackness is viewed as an emblem of the spiritual. Thus they appear in Jer. xiii.23: "Will indeed the Cushite change his skin, and the leopard his spots? will you indeed be able to do good, who have been taught to do evil?" But the fundamental passage is the inscription of Ps. vii., where Saul, on account of his black wickedness, appears under the symbolical name of Cush. -- The right explanation of these first words furnishes, at the same time, the key to the sound interpretation of the words which [Pg 386] follow: It is only for the Covenant-people that the deliverance from Egypt is a pledge of grace. But you are no longer the Covenant-people; your being brought up out of Egypt, therefore, stands on the same line with the bringing up of the Philistines from their former dwelling-places in Caphtor to their present abodes, and with the bringing up of the Syrians from Kir, in which no one will see a pledge of divine grace, a preservative against every danger, and, especially, an assurance of the impossibility of a new captivity. The geographical inquiries regarding Caphtor and Kir would lead us too far away from the subject which we are here discussing. The view which is now prevalent, and according to which Crete is to be understood by the former, is in contradiction to the old translations, which have Cappadocia, and with Gen. x.14, -- as long as, in that passage, the Colchians are to be understood by the Casluhim. But that point would require a minute investigation, which may be more suitably carried on at some other place.
Ver.8. "Behold, the eyes of the Lord Jehovah are upon the sinful kingdom, and I destroy them from off the face of the earth, saving that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, saith the Lord."
The sinful kingdom, whether its name be Israel or Judah, or whether it be called Egypt or Edom. The holy God has not by any means, as you in your blindness imagine, given you a privilege to sin. A difference exists between Israel and the others in this respect only, that utter ruin does not take place in the case of the former, as it does in that of the latter. For the distinction between the people of God and other nations consists in this, that in the former, there always remains a holy seed, an [Greek: ekloge], which the Lord must protect, and make the nursery of His kingdom, according to the same necessity of His nature as that by which He extirpates the sinners of His people. The "sinful kingdom" forms the contrast with the righteous kingdom; the article being here used in a generic sense. Similar are Is. x.6: "I send him against impious people, and against the people of My wrath (wheresoever there are such) I give him command;" and Ps. xxxiii.12: "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom He hath chosen for His inheritance;" on which latter passage Michaelis remarks, "Blessed is the nation, whichsoever it may be." The eyes of [Pg 387] the Lord are open upon the sinful kingdom, and hence also upon the house of Jacob; it must be destroyed as all others are, but it cannot be destroyed like them, -- an idea which is prominently brought out by the prefixed Infinit. [Hebrew: hwmid]. That is an erroneous interpretation which understands by the sinful nation, Ephraim, and, after the example of Grotius ("I will destroy the kingdom, not the people"), assumes that, by the house, in contrast with the kingdom, the people are intended. Such a contrast betwixt the house and the kingdom would have required a more distinct intimation. The house of Jacob, when referred to the ten tribes, is identical with the kingdom. They were a house only in so far as they were a kingdom. But it is both against the words (in Obad. ver.17, "house of Jacob" is likewise used of the whole of the nation), and against the connection, to refer it to the ten tribes. When, however, it is referred to the whole, a contrast betwixt people and kingdom can the less have place, as, according to ver.11, the kingdom also shall be restored. -- The first part of the verse is almost literally identical with Deut. vi.15: "For a jealous God is Jehovah, thy God, in thy midst; lest the anger of Jehovah thy God be kindled against thee, and He destroy thee from off the face of the earth," [Hebrew: vhwmidK mel pni hadmh]. The prophet says nothing new; he only resumes the threatening of the revered lawgiver. -- The construction of [Hebrew: eini ihvh] with [Hebrew: b] is explained by the circumstance that, according to the context, the eyes of the Lord can mean only His angry eyes -- equivalent to the anger of the Lord in the passage quoted from Deuteronomy; and the verbs and nouns expressive of anger are connected by [Hebrew: b] with the object on which the anger rests; compare Ps. xxxiv.17.
Ver.9. "For behold I command and shake the house of Israel among all the nations, as one shaketh in a sieve, and not shall anything firm fall to the ground."
The figure in this verse is, upon the whole, plain; but some of the particulars require to be explained, and to be more accurately determined. The signification "sieve," commonly assigned to [Hebrew: kbrh], must be conceded to it. We must, however, here understand it of such a sieve as serves similar purposes as a winnowing shovel, in which the corn is violently shaken, and thus purified; and not of a sieve in which, by mere sifting, the corn is freed from the dust which has remained after the first [Pg 388] and proper cleansing. The latter is assumed by Paulsen (vom Ackerbau der Morgenlaender, S.144), and, along with him, by the greater number of interpreters. Such a sieve -- a kind of fan -- is mentioned in Is. xxx.24, in addition to the winnowing shovel. It occurs likewise in Luke xxii.31, where [Greek: suniazein] is vanno agitare. The LXX. also have here adopted the explanation, not of an ordinary sieve, but of an instrument which serves the same purposes as the winnowing shovel: [Greek: dioti idou ego entellomai kai likmio (A. likmeso) en pasi tois ethnesi ton oikon tou Israel, hon tropon likmatai en to likmo.] Hesych. [Greek: likmo, ptuo]. To this we are likewise led by the verb [Hebrew: hnievti], which is indicative of a violent procedure, and by the occurrence of the same figure in so many passages of Scripture; compare, e.g., Jer. li.2; "I will send against Babylon fanners that shall fan her, and shall empty her land;" Jer. xv.7, and Matt. iii.12; while the use of the ordinary sieve for such a purpose is never mentioned, nor is it ever employed for a figure. -- [Hebrew: bkl-hgviM] is not to be translated, "by all nations," but, as the corresponding [Hebrew: bkbrh] shows, "in," or "among all nations." The many people are the spiritual sieve, -- the means of purging. The Lord, whose instruments they are, employs them for the destruction of the ungodly. They are taken away by His secret judgments, for the execution of which He employs the heathen; compare ver.10. Even the godly are violently shaken; but the hand of the Lord secretly upholds them that they may not sink, but that the temptation may serve for their spiritual growth; compare Luke xxii.31, 32, where the Lord distinctly alludes to the passage under consideration. The corn is shaken; dust and impurity fall to the ground, the chaff flies into the air. Many interpreters ascribe to [Hebrew: crvr] the signification, "corn;" others, "little stone." But these significations have been both assumed merely for the sake of the context. [Hebrew: crvr], from [Hebrew: crr], colligavit, constrinxit, means, primarily, "that which is tightly bound together;" then, "bundle," "bag;" but here, as in 2 Sam. xvii.13, "that which is compact, firm, and solid," as opposed to that which is loose, dissolved, and thin. That which is here meant is the solid, firm corn, as opposed to the loose chaff, and the dust which falls to the ground through the sieve.
Ver.10. "By the sword, shall die all the sinners of My people who say, The evil will not come near, nor advance to us."
In order that the preceding mitigation of the threatening of punishment might not be appropriated by those to whom it did not belong, the prophet, before passing on to the further detail of the promise, once more presents the threatening in all its severity. "The sinners who speak," etc., are they who usurped the promises of the Covenant without having truly fulfilled its conditions, -- who boasted of, and trusted in, their belonging outwardly to the people of God (compare iii.2), and their zeal in the external performance of the duties of worship (compare v.21-23); and who therefore imagined that the judgments of the Lord could not reach them, while, by their sins, they did all in their power to draw them down upon them, v.18, vi.3.
Ver.11. "In that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and wall up its breaches, and raise up its ruins, and build it as the days of eternity."
The words, "In that day," are to be understood quite generally, viz., as referring to a time after the divine judgments have broken in and have completed their work upon Israel. The [Greek: meta tauta], by which James renders it in Acts xv.16, completely expresses the sense. The assertion of Baur, "That the prophet must have conceived of the restoration of the tabernacle of David as being near at hand, because he recognised the instruments of judgment in the invading Assyrians," falls to the ground along with the supposition on which it rests. The prophet has nothing at all special to do with the invasion of the Assyrians. -- The Partic. [Hebrew: nplt], according to the usual signification of the Partic., expresses a permanent condition. The very expression, "tabernacle," suggests the idea of a sunken condition of the house of David. The prophet sees the proud palace of David changed into a humble tabernacle, everywhere in ruins, and perforated. The same idea is expressed by a different image in Is. xi.1. There the house of David is called the cut off trunk of Jesse, which puts forth a new shoot. Hofmann and others are of opinion that the prophet designates the house of David as a fallen tabernacle, on account of its abasement at the time then present. "At present," he says, "the lofty house of David is a [Hebrew: skh nplt] when compared with the power of Jeroboam; but the latter shall fall, and the former shall raise itself again from its decay." But this designation is certainly not applicable to [Pg 390] the house of David under a king like Uzziah, nor, in general, to the whole time of the existing Davidic kingdom. The fact that Amos foresees the deep fall of Judah, is placed beyond all doubt even by ii.5. It is impossible that the announcement of the restoration which is to follow only after this fall, should altogether ignore the latter. This is, moreover, proved by the parallel passages. The predictions of all the prophets are pervaded by the foresight of the Messiah's appearing at the time of the deepest debasement of the Davidic dynasty, and after the total loss of the royal dignity; compare the remarks on Mic. iv.8, vi. (2); Is. xi.1, liii.2; Ezek. xvii.22-24. -- It might now appear as though the prophet here only supposed the ruin of the house of David, without having, in the preceding context, expressly mentioned it; but such is not the case. The whole of the preceding threatening of punishment relates to the ruin of the house of David; for when the kingdom suffers, the reigning family cannot but suffer also. This close connection of the two is pointed out by the prophet himself in the subsequent words. The change of the suffixes is there certainly not without a reason. The suffix in [Hebrew: prcihN] refers to the two kingdoms; that in [Hebrew: hrist] to David; and that in [Hebrew: bnitih] to the tabernacle, while the subject of [Hebrew: iirwv] (ver.12) is the people. By this it is intimated that David, his tabernacle, the kingdoms, and the people, are in substance one -- that one stands and falls with the other. They who overlook the co-reference to Judah, in the preceding verses, do not know what to make of the suffix in [Hebrew: prchN] (compare the expression "these kingdoms," used of Judah and Israel in vi.2), and, in their uncertainty, conjecture sometimes one thing and sometimes another. -- [Hebrew: imi] is Nominat., not Accusat. The comparison is merely intimated; compare remarks on Hos. ii.17. The circumstance that the happy days of the times of David and Solomon are here spoken of as "days of eternity" -- of the remotest past (compare Mic. vii.14) -- implies that the prophet sees a long interval between the present and the predicted event. -- The foundation of this prophecy is the promise to David in 2 Sam. vii.; compare especially ver.16: "And thine house and thy kingdom shall be sure in eternity before thee, and thy throne shall be firm in eternity." This reference has also been pointed out by Calvin, who remarks: "When the prophet says, 'as in the days of old,' he confirms [Pg 391] the doctrine that the dignity of the house would not always flow in an equal current, but that, nevertheless, there would always be such a restoration as would make it easily perceptible that God's promise of an eternal dominion to David had not been in vain." The dominion of David had already suffered a considerable shock by the separation of the two kingdoms, existing at the prophet's time; but it was in future to sink even far more deeply, and the people along with it. But, with all these things, God's promise remains true. The judgments do not shut up the way for His mercy, but rather prepare it. That it was only through the family of David that the promised salvation could be imparted to the people, the prophet plainly declares. If it were not so, how could he have identified the tabernacle of David with the two kingdoms, and with the people? As to the person of the restorer, he does not more particularly designate it. The main thing with him, as with Hosea (compare the remarks on Hos. ii.2, and iii.5), is to impress upon the people of Israel the conviction, that salvation could come to them only from a reunion with Judah -- from their joining again the house of David; compare Ezek. xxxvii.22: "And I make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel, and one king shall be king to them all; and they shall be no more two nations, and they shall be no more divided into two kingdoms." But if this was sure and established, there could then be no more any doubt as to the person. It was at that time generally known that the promise given to David would be finally fulfilled in the Messiah; and it was generally acknowledged by the ancient Jews, that the passages under consideration refer to the Messiah. Jerome remarks: "The Jews refer everything which, in this and the other prophets, is foretold concerning the building up of Jerusalem and the temple, and the happy condition of all things, to themselves, and foolishly expect that all shall be fulfilled in a carnal sense." It is from the passage under review that the Messiah received the name [Hebrew: br npliM], filius cadentium -- He who springs forth from the fallen family of David; compare Sanhedrin, fol.96, 2: R. Nachman said to R. Isaac, Hast thou heard when [Hebrew: br npiliM] is to come? The latter answered: Who is he? R. Nachman said: The Messiah. R. Isaac: But is the Messiah thus named? R. Nachman: Certainly, in Amos ix.11: [Pg 392] "In that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen." In Breshith Rabbah, sec.88, we read: "Who would have expected that God should raise up again the fallen tabernacle of David? And yet we read in Amos ix.11, 'In that day,' etc. And who could have hoped that the whole world could yet become one flock? And yet, such is declared in Zeph. iii.9: 'Then will I turn to the people in pure lips, that they all may call upon the name of the Lord, and serve Him with one lip.' But all that is prophesied only in reference to the Messiah." See Schoettgen, p.70, and other passages, especially from the Sohar, ibid. p.111, 566.
Ver.12. "In order that they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen upon whom My name is called, saith the Lord that doeth this."
Calvin remarks on this verse: "This main point is plainly declared to us, that there is here promised an extension of the kingdom under Christ; and it is just as if the prophet had said that the Jews were enclosed within narrow limits, even when the kingdom of David did most flourish, inasmuch as, under Christ, God is to extend their territory, so that they shall rule far and wide." There is here an evident allusion to the times of David, which, in the last words of the preceding verse, formed the subject of discourse. This is quite plain also from the mention of the Edomites. These had been made subject by David; but afterwards, availing themselves of the commencing fall of David's tabernacle, they had again freed themselves. Not only they, however, but all the other heathen nations, shall be again subjected to the raised up tabernacle of David. That former event served as a type and prelude to the latter, and formed moreover a prophecy of it in deeds, inasmuch as both rested on the same foundation, viz., God's protection of His Church, and His care for His kingdom. It is for this reason too, that, with an allusion to the former event, the verb [Hebrew: iirwv] is chosen. By this verb, expression is given only to the fact of their agreement, and to points in which those events agree; but it gives no indication of how far they agree, or in what respects they differ; this is to be declared in the subsequent words. The prophet, however, in speaking only of the remnant of Edom, looks back to the threatening in chap. i. They only who have been preserved in the judgment which is there announced, are to come [Pg 393] under the blissful dominion of the kingdom of David. As Israel, so also the Gentiles, must be prepared for the coming of the kingdom of Christ by crushing judgments. The judgment upon Israel is only a single portion of a great judgment upon all nations. Into this connection it is brought by the very opening chapters of this book. In chap. v.8, vii.7, there is likewise an intimation of great calamities and shakings, which are to come upon the heathen world. The submission of the remnant of the heathen world, however, will not be an abasement, but, on the contrary, an exalting of them; this is shown by the words, "Upon whom My name is called." These words do not allow us to think of such a relation of Edom and the other nations to Israel, as existed at the time of David in the case of the conquered nations. They are never used to designate a form of allegiance to the Lord so low and false, but always denote the relation of close and cordial allegiance. The heathen are in future to be considered and treated as those who are consecrated to the Lord, and who belong to His holy people, -- just as Israel is now considered and treated. Compare, as to the use of these words with reference to Israel, Deut. xxviii.9, 10: "The Lord shall raise thee an Holy people unto Him, as He hath sworn unto thee ... and all people of the earth see that the name of the Lord is called upon thee, and are afraid of thee." In this verse, the expression, "The name of the Lord is called upon thee," corresponds with "holy people." Jer. xiv.9: "And Thou, O Lord, art in the midst of us, and Thy name is called upon us." Is. lxiii.19: "We are those over whom Thou hast not reigned from eternity, and upon whom Thy name has not been called." As regards the use of these words in reference to the temple, compare, further, Jer. vii.10, 11: "And ye come and stand before Me in this house, upon which My name is called. Is, perhaps, this house upon which My name is called, a den of robbers in your eyes?" The exceeding greatness of their wickedness is denounced in these words; and the ground why it is so great, is not by any means the fact, that the temple, as was indeed the case with that at Bethel, bore the name of the house of God only by the caprice of the people, but that it really was the house of God, and that God, in His gracious condescension, was there really present, as a type of His dwelling in Christ; compare Deut. xii.5: "The place which [Pg 394] the Lord your God shall choose out of all your tribes, to put His name there." Finally, These words are used in reference to single individuals, whom God, in a special sense, has made His own, His representatives, the bearers of His word, the mediators of His revelations, in Jer. xv.16: "I found Thy words and I did eat them, and Thy words became unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart: for Thy name was called upon me, Jehovah, God of hosts," etc., equivalent to, "For I was the messenger and representative of Thee, the Almighty God." -- Hitzig, Hofmann, and Baur explain the expression, "Upon whom My name is called," by, "Upon all the nations who once, at the time of David, were in subjection to the people of God." The use of the Preterite has been urged in favour of this explanation; but it is certainly very rash to assert, on the ground of this, that "this view alone is admissible according to the rules of grammar." The statement of Ewald, Sec.135 a, is exactly applicable to this case: "The Perfectum, when used with reference to some future event, either mentioned or conceived of, may as well indicate the past which then has taken place." The sense might thus be: "All the heathen upon whom then My name will be called." In the same sense, the Preterite is used in another passage, quoted by Hofmann for a different purpose -- viz., 2 Sam. xii.28: "In order that I may not take ([Hebrew: alkd]) the city, and my name be called ([Hebrew: nqra]) upon it." It militates, however, against their view, that the name of the Lord being called upon any one, has, according to all the parallel passages, a sense too profound to admit of a relation to the Lord so loose and external being thereby designated. It is used only of such as are received into the condition of the people and sons of Jehovah, Hos. ii.1 (i.10). Further, The mere restoration of the Davidic dominion over the heathen is a very meagre thought, which is far from coming up to what Jacob had foretold in Gen. xlix.10, and to what David and Solomon expected of the future; compare, e.g., Ps. lxxii.11: "And all kings worship Him, all the heathen serve Him." -- The closing words, "Thus saith the Lord that doeth this," are intended to strengthen faith in a promise which appears to be incredible, by calling attention to the fact, that the person who promises is also the person who carries it out to its fulfilment; compare Jer. xxxiii.2: "Thus saith the Lord that makes it, the Lord that forms it, [Pg 395] to carry it out, the Lord is His name." This closing formula is also very ill suited for so meagre a prediction as that of the restoration of the old borders, of which Israel, under the reign of Uzziah and Jeroboam, was not so very far short. It was, probably, solely from a false interpretation of the passage under review, that an important historical event had its rise. Hyrcanus compelled the Idumeans, who were conquered by him, to be circumcised, and in that way to be incorporated into the Theocracy; so that they lost entirely their national existence and name (Jos. Arch. xiii.9, 1; Prideaux Hist. des Juifs, vol. v. p.16). This proceeding differed so materially from that which was ordinarily followed -- for David did not think it at all necessary to adopt a similar proceeding against the Idumeans, and the other nations which were conquered by him -- that it necessarily requires some special reason to account for it; and such a reason is furnished by the passage under consideration. Hyrcanus washed to be instrumental in the fulfilment of the prophecy contained in it; but in this he failed. He did not consider, 1. That the reception of Edom into the kingdom of God is here brought into connection with the restoration of the tabernacle of David, and hence could be brought about only by a king of the house of David. He did not consider, 2. That the matter here in question is not such a reception into the kingdom of God as depends upon the will of man, but a spiritual reception, which carries along with it the full enjoyment of divine blessings. That it was, however, easy for Hyrcanus to fall into such a mistake, is shown by the example of Grotius, who confined himself to this merely apparent fulfilment, although he had the real fulfilment before his eyes. By a similar misunderstanding of Old Testament prophecies, other important events also were brought about; e.g., according to the express testimony of Josephus, the building of the Egyptian temple, and, as we shall afterwards see, the building of the temple by Herod.
It now only remains to consider the quotation of this passage in the New Testament, in Acts xv.16, 17. Olshausen has directed attention to a difficulty regarding it, which has been overlooked by the greater number of interpreters. He says that one cannot well see how the quotation bears upon the point at issue. Both parties were at one as to the duty of admitting the Gentiles into the kingdom of God. The only question was [Pg 396] about the manner of their reception -- whether with, or without, circumcision -- and as to this, the prophecy, which confines itself to the fact only, does not contain any express declaration. But this difficulty has its sole foundation on the erroneous view that James was stating two reasons altogether independent of each other; -- the first in ver.14, God's declaration by facts, in His having given His Holy Spirit to the Gentiles, without their having been circumcised; and then, in vers.16, 17, the testimony of the Old Testament. But the sound view rather is, that both together form only one reason. Apart from that testimony which God, the Searcher of hearts, had given to the Gentiles by the gift of the Holy Spirit, and by making no difference betwixt them and Israel, the prophetic declaration would have been without any significance; but it acquires this significance when combined with the testimony of God. It is now also that the silence of James, in reference to that condition which was demanded by those of a pharisaic tendency, gains significance. Simeon has declared how God at first was pleased to take a people for His name out of the Gentiles; and after the fact of their reception has been so expressively declared, the Old Testament passage, where this reception is spoken of, is not cognizant of any other mode. The Apostle does not content himself with quoting ver.12; he first cites ver.11, because it furnished the proof that the declaration contained in ver.12 referred to that time. That event, with which the conversion of the Gentiles is here immediately connected, had already taken place in Christ, at least as to the germ, which contained within itself the whole substance which afterwards displayed itself. But it was the main thought only which came into consideration in ver.11, and therefore it is somewhat abbreviated. In the quotation, the translation of the LXX. evidently forms the foundation.
The quotation of ver.12 agrees, almost verbatim, with the LXX. It follows them in their important deviation from the Hebrew text. Instead of, "In order that they may occupy the remnant of Edom," the LXX. read, [Greek: hopos an ekzetesosin hoi kataloipoi ton anthropon me] (instead of [Greek: me] Luke has [Greek: ton kurion], which is found in the Cod. Alex. also, but has very likely come in from Luke). It is of very little consequence to determine in what manner the translation of the LXX. arose; whether they had a different reading, [Hebrew: lmeN idrwv warit adM], [Pg 397] before them; or whether they merely read erroneously; or whether, according to Lightfoot (in his remarks on Acts xv.16, 17), they intentionally thus altered the words; or whether it was their object to express the sense only generally and approximately (in the last two cases we should be obliged to suppose that, by a kind of play, and in order to represent, in an outward manner, the substantial agreement of the thought, they chose words exactly corresponding to the Hebrew text, with the exception of a change of a few letters, -- a thing which frequently occurs in the Talmud, and even in Jeremiah when compared with the older prophets); only, we must set aside the idea of a really different reading, -- a reading resting on the authority of good Manuscripts, inasmuch as such an idea would be irreconcilable with the deviations of the LXX. elsewhere, and with the unanimity of the Hebrew Manuscripts in the passage before us. The assertion of Olshausen, however, that, in the Hebrew form, the passage would not have been suitable for the purpose, and that therefore it is probable that, on this occasion, Greek must have been spoken in the assembly, does indeed deserve our attention.
Whether or not the latter was the case, we leave undecided. That it was probable, may be proved from other grounds, but it by no means follows from the reason stated by Olshausen. The passage was suited for the proof, as well according to the Hebrew text, as according to the Alexandrian version; for the latter is quite correct and faithful in so far as the sense is concerned. The occupying, in the sense in which it is used by Amos, has the seeking for its necessary supposition. For how, indeed, can spiritual possession, spiritual dominion by the people of the Lord exist, unless the Lord has been sought by those who are to be ruled over? Compare the declaration: "The isles shall wait for His law," Is. xlii.4. The words, "And of all the heathen," following immediately after Edom, evidently prove that Amos mentions Edom, only by way of individualizing; and the Idumeans, especially, as a people, only because their former, specially violent hatred to the Covenant-people (compare i.11) made their future humble submission more evidently a work of the omnipotence of God, and of His love watching over His people; and at the same time there may be a reference also to the former subjection by David. The LXX. [Pg 398] have done nothing more, than at once to substitute for the particular, the general which comprehends this particular, -- a particular which is, by Amos too, designated as a part of the general.
Ver.13. "Behold, days come, saith the Lord, and the ploughman reacheth to the reaper, and the treader of the wine-press to him that soweth seed. And the mountains drop must, and all the hills melt."
The fundamental thought in this passage is this: -- Wheresoever the Lord is, there also is the fulness of His gifts. -- The imagery in the first hemistich is taken from Lev. xxvi.3-5: "If ye shall walk in My laws, and keep My commandments and do them; then I will give your rains in their seasons, and the land gives its produce, and the tree of the field gives its fruit. And your threshing reaches to the vintage, and the vintage reaches to the sowing time." After the Lord has purified His congregation by His judgments, then the joyful time of blessing, prophesied by His servant Moses, shall likewise come. Cocceius says: "One shall reap, the other shall immediately plough; one shall scatter the seeds in the ploughed field, while another shall, at the same time, tread the grapes, -- a work is wont to be done at the last time of the year. There shall be continual work, and continual fruit, and a fruitfulness such as that in the land of the Troglodytes which Scaliger (Exercit. 249, 2) thus describes: 'Throughout the whole year there is sowing and reaping at the same time; at one place the seed is committed to the fields, and at another the wheat shoots up, at another it gets ears, at another it is reaped, at another it is collected, and [Pg 399] brought to the threshing-places, and thence to the barn.'" -- The second hemistich agrees with Joel iv. (iii.) 18 (which is certainly not accidental; compare the introduction to Joel): "At that time the mountains shall drop must, and the hills go with milk." From a comparison of this passage it appears that the melting of the hills can mean only their dissolving into rivers of milk, must, and honey, with an allusion to the description of the promised land in the Pentateuch (Exod. iii.8) as a land flowing with milk and honey.
Ver.14. "And I turn Myself to the captivity of My people Israel, and they build waste cities, and dwell, and plant vineyards, and drink their wine; and they make gardens and eat their fruit."
The captivity is a figure of misery. With reference to [Hebrew: wvb wbvt] compare the remarks on Joel.
Ver.15. "And I plant them in their land, and they shall no more he plucked up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God." Compare p.227 seqq.
Footnote 1: Hofmann, Schriftbeweis I. S.312, objects: "If this were correct, Paul ought to have delivered that fornicator at Corinth (1 Cor. v.5), or Hymeneus and Alexander (1 Tim. i.20), not to Satan, but to the good angels." But the individuals mentioned were members of the Church of Christ, and they were delivered to Satan, not for their absolute destruction, but for their salvation: [Greek: hina to pneuma], (which of course was still in existence; and it is just the [Greek: pneuma] that separates between the world and the Church, compare Ps. li.13) [Greek: sothe en te hemera tou Kuriou, hina paideuthosi me blasphemein.] It is, as in the case of Job, a punishment with a view to purification, for which power is given to Satan, Heb. xii.6. These passages, then, serve only to confirm the view which we have expressed.
Footnote 2: The same is probably the case in vi.14: "For behold I raise up against you, O house of Israel, saith the Lord God of Hosts, heathen people; and they shall afflict you from Hamath unto the river of the wilderness." The river of the wilderness can here be none other than the river of Egypt, which commonly appears as the boundary of the whole. Compare 1 Kings viii.65; 2 Chron. vii.8, where Solomon assembles the whole people from Hamath unto the river of Egypt; Josh. xv.4, 47; 2 Kings xxiv.7; Is. xxvii.12. They who think of the boundary of the kingdom of the ten tribes only, are at a loss, and have recourse to uncertain conjectures.
Footnote 3: In Micah i.15 the entire people are called Jacob. The same occurs also in Hos. x.11, xii.3 (2).
Footnote 4: Hitzig says: With a disposition of mind different from that in iii.2, the prophet says here, "You enjoy no privileges with me, you are to me like all others." A strange disposition of mind indeed for a prophet! An interpretation which results in such thoughts, which cannot be entertained for a moment, is self-condemned.
Footnote 5: Whether, however, it was James or Luke who quoted these words according to the version of the LXX., this passage is one of the many hundreds which prove that the violent urging and pressing for an improvement in our (German) authorized version of the Scriptures, as it proceeded from von Meier and Stier, is exaggerated. The Saviour and His Apostles adopted, without hesitation, the version current at their time, when its deviations concerned not the thought but the words. If we proceed upon this principle, how will the mountain of complaints melt away which has been raised against Luther's translation of the Scriptures. But it is true that, even then, weighty objections remain. The revision of it is a want of the Church; but it is not so urgent that we may not, and must not, wait for the time when it may be satisfied without danger. If it were undertaken at present, the disadvantages would far outweigh the advantages. To everything there is a season; and it is the duty of the wise steward to find it out, and to know it.