That drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments: but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.
The term "Joseph" is here employed for the whole of the people of the kingdom of Israel. The term "Ephraim" is usually employed by way of reproach when the sin and rebellion of the whole people are referred to, while the more illustrious name of "Joseph" is apparently reserved for occasions that call for pity and compassion. The idea here appears to have been suggested by the heartless conduct of Joseph's brethren when they made away with their brother, without pity for his youth or respect for his piety. So the prophet, describing the rich men and rulers of his time, says, "They drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments; but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph." In this chapter we have a terrible picture of a corrupt, degenerate commonwealth. The prophet, with a noble plea for patriotism, turning from the miseries of the lower to the heartless luxuries of the higher ranks, sees nothing in the future but national ruin. The principle he establishes is this, — The life of a nation depends on the healthy exercise of sympathy throughout all its parts, all its ranks and classes. How shall we apply this principle, and the warning that accompanies it, to ourselves? I am not one of those who would willingly indulge in reflections upon the character of the age in which we live. I do not see the wisdom of making a disadvantageous comparison between these and past times, as if our forefathers were in all respects wiser and better than we. But I am not bound to shut my eyes to the signs of the times, nor cease to reprove the evils of the times. Is not a want of union and sympathy throughout all ranks of the nation as characteristic of our age as of the age of Amos? Our divisions, political and religious, when taken in connection with our great prosperity and liberty, are the surprise and the ridicule of the whole world. Of all power in the world there is no force equal to the moral force of sympathy. This is the power that takes strongest hold, and enables us to wield empire over the hearts of men. Personal influence and kindness — thus we may form an estimate of tim comparative failure of so many of our benevolent institutions. Tried by these Divine rules of conduct, how does the benevolence of many who have earned a reputation for charity, pale before that which may never be able to go beyond kindly words and secret intercessory prayer. Charity ceases to be charity if it is unaccompanied by tenderness and courtesy. By sympathy is meant an entrance into the circumstances, a true realisation of the position of those whom we seek to benefit. Jesus came down at first from heaven, and still administers His way of salvation by the exercise of sympathy. The same mind that was in Christ Jesus must and will animate every true disciple. He will be impelled to seek out sinners, and lead them to their Saviour by kindly advice and loving persuasion; not by cold reproofs and pharisaic condemnation, but by brotherly sympathy, because he is like that Saviour who came "not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved."
Parallel VersesKJV: That drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments: but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.