Shall horses run on the rock? will one plow there with oxen? for you have turned judgment into gall…
The perfect naturalness and genuineness of Amos must be apparent to every reader. The sources from which he drew his graphic imagery were his own life and experiences. As a husbandman employed upon the land, he was brought into contact both with the phenomena of nature and with the processes of agriculture; and from these sources his mind was supplied with the bold similitudes which occur in his prophecies. Wishing to depict the irrational and absurd suppositions and expectations of the sinful and rebellious, he compared them to husbandmen who should attempt to drive horses up a steep cliff, or to plough the hard, barren rock by oxen.
I. JUSTICE IS THE ETERNAL LAW OF THE MORAL UNIVERSE. Here is the true and Divine bond of human society; here is the principle which should govern earthly rulers, judges, and princes. The higher men's station, the greater men's power, the more important is it that justice should guide and inspire their conduct.
II. IN A CORRUPT STATE OF SOCIETY OPPRESSION AND VIOLENCE ARE SUBSTITUTED FOR JUSTICE. Amos complained that the kings and nobles of Israel were guilty of the basest and most degrading conduct; they exchanged the sweet and wholesome fruit of righteousness for the bitterness of gall and wormwood and the poison of hemlock, i.e. for bribery, for violence, for oppressiveness. History is full of such instances. The noble institutions of society are perverted into instruments of personal ambition, aggrandizement, and wrong. Cruel kings, luxurious nobles, corrupt judges, are morally disastrous to the state; their example spreads through all classes, and faith, honour, and purity decay and perish.
III. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE THAT TRUE PROSPERITY SHOULD PREVAIL WHERE THE FOUNTAIN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS IS POISONED. The great men of Israel had come to confide in their own strength, in their military power, and, like so many in high estate, thought that physical force was sufficient to secure a nation's greatness. The prophet justly characterizes such a doctrine as "a thing of nought," a nonentity, an absurdity! As well may horses climb the scaur, as well may oxen plough the bare, hard rock, as a nation prosper which has renounced the Law of God, and is attempting to base its success upon physical force, military prestige, ostentations luxury, judicial corruption. We in our own days need not look far for an exemplification of the folly of such confidence. "Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth." - T.
Parallel VersesKJV: Shall horses run upon the rock? will one plow there with oxen? for ye have turned judgment into gall, and the fruit of righteousness into hemlock: