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Amos 5:16

16. Therefore the Lord, the God of hosts, the Lord, saith thus; Wailing shall be in all streets; and they shall say in all the highways, Alas! alas! and they shall call the husbandman to mourning, and such as are skilful of lamentation to wailing.

16. Quapropter dicit Jehova Deus exercituum, Dominus, In omnibus compitis lamentum, et in omnibus viis dicent, Vae, vae; et vocabunt agricolam ad luctum, et lamentum erit super omnes peritos luctus.


The particle of inference, set down here, confirms what has been already said, — that the Israelites vainly flattered themselves, though they were in the worst condition. And as the Prophet knew that there would be no end to their evasions, being, as they were, perverse hypocrites, he cuts off all their subterfuges by saying, that God had now announced his purpose concerning them, and that however they might object this or that, God’s judgment could no longer be deferred by delay, for their iniquity was more than sufficiently proved.

Therefore Jehovah, he says, God of hosts, the Lord, saith. He again repeats the attributes of God, in order to set forth his supreme power; as though he had said, that the Israelites gained nothing by acting the part of sophisters with God; for that he is the supreme judge, against whom there is no appeal, and whose sentence cannot be revoked. Hence we see that what is here checked is that waywardness which deceived the Israelites, while they continued to clamor against God. Thus then saith Jehovah; this was said, that they might understand that they were depraved in their disposition, corrupt in morals, wholly given to wickedness, and without a particle of goodness in them.

Thus then saith God, In all the streets of concourse there shall be lamentation, and in all the highways they shall say, Woe! Woe! 3636     Henderson gives a better rendering of these two lines, —
   In all the broad places there shall be wailing,
And in all the streets, they shall say, Oh! Oh!

   רחבות, from רחב, to be dilated, and to be made broad or wide, mean broad places or broad streets: and חוצות, from חצה, to divide, signify the common streets, by which the town is divided. The exclamations, הו, הו, are rendered by Calvin, Vae! Vae! Eheu, in Latin, and Woe, in our language come nearest to sound in the original. —Ed.
The Prophet disputes not here with them, nor denounces their vices, but speaks only of punishment; as though he had said, that the litigation was decided, that there was no need of an accuser; for nothing now remained but that God should execute his vengeance on them, inasmuch as he had already contended more than enough with them. And this mode of teaching frequently occurs in the Prophets; and it ought to be observed, that we may not think that we can gain anything by our evasions, when the Lord regards us as guilty. Let us then dread the punishment, which is prepared for all the intractable and the obstinate. They shall say, he says, in all the highways, Woe! Woe! They now prattle and think to prevail by their loquacity: when they murmur against God, they think that a delay is thus attained, that he dares not to inflict punishment; but God nevertheless proceeds with his judgment; they shall cry, Woe! Woe! there will be no time then for devising shifts, but they will be wholly taken up with wailing.

They shall call, he says, the husbandman to mourning Some think אכר, acar, derived from נכר, nucar, which is to own, or, to make, one’s self a stranger: and they are induced to regard it so only for this reason, because the Prophet immediately mentions those who were skillful in mourning. But, as all the Hebrews agree as to the meaning of this word, I am unwilling, without authority to make any change: and it also harmonizes well with what the Prophet says. At the same time, those Hebrew interpreters are wrong, who think that the order is inverted, as though it ought to have been thus, “The skillful in lamentation shall call husband men to mourning.” But the Prophet, I doubt not, meant, that all were to be led together to mourning; for, though the manner was different, yet, in the first place, he appoints mourning to husbandmen, and then he shows that it would be common to all those who were wont to mourn.

Let us then consider what the Prophet says, Lamentation to all the skillful in mourning. Eastern nations we know, exercised themselves in acting grief, and so they do at this day. We find, indeed, that they practiced all manner of gesticulations: a greater moderation at least is seen among us, however heavy the grief may be. And this custom in former times came also into Europe; for we know that there were women hired to mourn at Rome; and we know that there were everywhere those who lamented. They therefore mourned for wages. This vicious custom the Prophet notices: but it is not discussed here whether this was done rightly or foolishly: for the Prophet here only refers to a common custom; ‘There will be lamentations’ he says, ‘to all the skillful in mourning;’ that is, all who are wont to employ their labor in weeping will now be fully occupied. This is the first, though the last in order, at least it is the middle between two other clauses. Now, the two others follow, which are these, — that the very husbandmen would be led to mourning, — and then that there would be lamentation in all the highways. But why does the Prophet say, that all the skillful in mourning were to be occupied in lamentation? Because the common calamity would thus constrain them. He further adds, that this grief would not be feigned; but that as destruction would prevail through the cities and fields none would be exempt. However much the husbandmen were unaccustomed to such rites, they would yet wail and learn this new art, says the Prophet. We now then see what these words mean: but the next verse must be joined to them —

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