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1. Judgment on Israel's Neighbors

The words of Amos, who was among the herdmen of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel, two years before the earthquake. 2And he said, The Lord will roar from Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the habitations of the shepherds shall mourn, and the top of Carmel shall wither. 3Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have threshed Gilead with threshing instruments of iron: 4But I will send a fire into the house of Hazael, which shall devour the palaces of Benhadad. 5I will break also the bar of Damascus, and cut off the inhabitant from the plain of Aven, and him that holdeth the sceptre from the house of Eden: and the people of Syria shall go into captivity unto Kir, saith the Lord.

6Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Gaza, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they carried away captive the whole captivity, to deliver them up to Edom: 7But I will send a fire on the wall of Gaza, which shall devour the palaces thereof: 8And I will cut off the inhabitant from Ashdod, and him that holdeth the sceptre from Ashkelon, and I will turn mine hand against Ekron: and the remnant of the Philistines shall perish, saith the Lord GOD.

9Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Tyrus, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they delivered up the whole captivity to Edom, and remembered not the brotherly covenant: 10But I will send a fire on the wall of Tyrus, which shall devour the palaces thereof.

11Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because he did pursue his brother with the sword, and did cast off all pity, and his anger did tear perpetually, and he kept his wrath for ever: 12But I will send a fire upon Teman, which shall devour the palaces of Bozrah.

13Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of the children of Ammon, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have ripped up the women with child of Gilead, that they might enlarge their border: 14But I will kindle a fire in the wall of Rabbah, and it shall devour the palaces thereof, with shouting in the day of battle, with a tempest in the day of the whirlwind: 15And their king shall go into captivity, he and his princes together, saith the Lord.

Amos boasts not here, in speaking of his own words, that he adduced anything as from himself, but avows himself to be only the minister of God; for he immediately adds that he received them by a vision. God himself raised up the Prophets and employed their labor; And, at the same time, guided them by his Spirit, that they might not announce anything but what had been received from him, but faithfully deliver what had proceeded from him alone. These two things then, well agree together, — that the prophecies which follow were the words of Amos and that they were words revealed to him from above; for the word חזה, chese, which Amos uses, properly means, to see by revelation; 1616     There is an incongruity in our language in saying, “The words of Amos, which he saw.” To see words, except when written, is no proper expression. To avoid this, Newcome has paraphrased the passage thus, — “Which had come to him in a vision.” There would be no necessity for this, had we a suitable term for “words,” which in Hebrew has the same latitude of meaning with λογος in Greek. Dathius renders it, Effata, oracles. They were the things, the matters, the events, which the Prophet saw, or were discovered to him in a supernatural manner. The faculty of sight seems to have been used, because scenes were presented often to the prophets, when these communications were made to them; and then seeing became the term to designate these divine revelations, when nothing but messages, either of mercy or of judgment, were conveyed to the prophets. — Ed. and these revelations were called prophecies.

But he says, that he was among the shepherds of Tekoa. This was a mean towns and had been shortly before surrounded by walls and had ever been previously a village. He then mentions not his country, because it was celebrated, or as though he could derive thereby more authority or renown: but, on the contrary he calls himself a Tekoan, because God drew him forth from an obscure place, that he might set him over the whole kingdom of Israel. They are therefore mistaken, as I think, who suppose that Amos was called one of the shepherds on account of his riches, and the number of his flocks; for when I weigh every thing, I see not how could this be. I indeed allow that נקדים, nukodim are not only shepherds who do the work, but men possessing flocks, carrying on a large business; for the king of Moab is said to have been a נקד, nukod, and that he fed large flocks; but it was by hired shepherds. As to the Prophets I do not see how this can be applied to him; for Tekoa was not a place famous for wealth; and as I have said, it was a small town, and of no opulence. I do not then doubt, but that Amos, by saying that he was a shepherd, pours contempt on the pride of the king of Israel, and of the whole people; for as they had not deigned to hear the Prophets of God, a keeper of sheep was sent to them.

It must be further noticed, that he is not called a shepherd of Tekoa, but from Tekoa; and interpreters have not observed this preposition. We shall see in chapter seven, that though Amos sprang from the tribe of Judah, he yet dwelt in the kingdom of Israel: for the priest, after he had slandered him before the king, bade him to go elsewhere, and to eat his own bread, and not to disturb the peace of the country. He therefore dwelt there as a stranger in a land not his own. Had he been rich, and possessing much wealth, he would have surely dwelt at home: why should he change his place? Since then it appears evident, that he was a sojourner in the land of Israel, he was, no doubt, one of the common people. So that his low condition (ignobilitias—ignobility) was intended for this purpose, — that God might thereby repress the arrogance of the king of Israel, and of the whole people; for we know how much inflated they were on account of the fruitfulness of their land and their riches. Hence Amos was set over them as a Prophet, being a shepherd, whom God had brought from the sheepfolds.

The time also is to be observed, when he is said to have seen these prophecies; it was in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, two years before the earth-quake, and in the days of Jeroboam, the son of Joash. What the state of that time was, I described in explaining the prophecies of Hosea. Sacred history relates that the kingdom of Israel flourished under the second Jeroboam; for though he was an ungodly and wicked man, yet God spared then his people, and caused that not only the ten tribes should remain entire, but also that Jeroboam should enlarge his kingdom; for he had recovered some cities which had been lost. The state of the people was then tranquil, and their prosperity was such as filled them with pride, as it commonly happens. Uzziah also so reigned over the tribe of Judah, that nothing adverse prevailed there. Shortly after followed the earthquake. The time this earthquake happened, sacred history does not mention. But Josephus says, that it was when Uzziah seized on the priestly office, and was smitten with leprosy. He therefore makes that stroke of leprosy and the earthquake to be at the same time. But Amos, as well as other Prophets, spoke of it as a thing well known: thus Zechariah, after the people’s return, refers to it in chapter 14: (Zechariah 14:5),

‘There shall be to you a terror,
such as was in the earthquake under king Uzziah.’

He states not the year, but it was then commonly known.

Then the Prophet meant nothing more than to show by this event, that he denounced God’s vengeance on the Israelites, when they were in prosperity, and were immersed, as it were, in their pleasures. And satiety, as it ever happens, made them ferocious; hence he was not well received; but his authority is hereby more confirmed to us; for he did not flatter the people in their prosperity, but severely reproved them; and he also predicted what could not be foreseen by human judgment, nay, what seemed to be altogether improbable. Had he not then been endued with the heavenly Spirit, he could not have foretold future calamities, when the Jews, as I have already said, as well as the Israelites, and others, promised themselves all kinds of prosperity; for God then spared the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Judah, nor did he execute his judgment on neighboring nations.

We must now observe this also, that the words which he saw were concerning Israel. We hence learn, as I have already said that the Prophet was specifically appointed for the Israelites, though born elsewhere. But how and on what occasion he migrated into the kingdom of Israel, we know not; and as to the subject in hand, it matters not much: but it is probable, as I have said before, that this was designedly done, that God might check the insolence of the people, who flattered themselves so much in their prosperity. Since, then, the Israelites had hitherto rejected God’s servants, they were now constrained to hear a foreigner and a shepherd condemning them for their sins, and exercising the office of a judge: he who proclaims, an impending destruction is a celestial herald. This being the case, we hence see that God had not in vain employed the ministry of this Prophet; for he is wont to choose the weak things of the world to confound the strong, (1 Corinthians 1) and he takes Prophets and teachers from the lowest grade to humble the dignity of the world, and puts the invaluable treasure of his doctrine in earthly vessels, that his power, as Paul teaches us, may be made more evident (2 Corinthians 4:7.)

But there was a special reason as to the Prophet Amos; for he was sent on purpose severely to reprove the ten tribes: and, as we shall see, he handled them with great asperity. For he was not polite, but proved that he had to do with those who were not to be treated as men, but as brute beasts; yea, worse in obstinacy than brute beasts; for there is some docility in oxen and cows, and especially in sheep, for they hear the voice of their shepherd, and follow where he leads them. The Israelites were all stubbornness, and wholly untamable. It was then necessary to set over them a teacher who would not treat them courteously, but exercise towards them his native rusticity. Let us now proceed; for of the kingdom of Uzziah and of Jeroboam the son of Joash, the second of that name, we have spoken on the in Hosea 1:1. It now follows —

Amos 1:2

2. And he said, The Lord will roar from Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the habitations of the shepherds shall mourn, and the top of Carmel shall wither.

2. Et dixit, Jehova e Sion ruget, et e Jerusalem edet (vel, emittet) vocem suam; et lugebunt (vel, disperibunt) habitacula pastorum; et arescet (vel, pudefiet) vertex Carmeli. 1717     Rendered literally from the Hebrew, this verse is a fine specimen of sublime simplicity: the poetical inversion of words is preserved: —
And he said,—

   Jehovah from Zion will roar,
And from Jerusalem will he send forth his voice;
Then mourn with the inhabitants of shepherds,
And wither will the top of Carmel.

   The roarings of lions are dreadful to shepherds. God’s voice is either of mercy or of judgment; it is the latter here, and evidently that of drought, (see Amos 5:6,) as the withering of Carmel was to be the effect. — Ed.

 

He employs here the same words which we explained yesterday in the Lecture on Joel; but for another purpose. By saying, ‘Jehovah from Zion shall roar,’ Joel intended to set forth the power of God, who had been for a time silent, as though he was not able to repel his enemies. As God was then despised by the ungodly, Joel declares that he had power, by which he could instantly break down and destroy all his enemies and defend his Church and chosen people. But now Amos, as he addresses the Israelites, does here defend the pure worship of God from all contempt and declares to the Israelites, that how much soever they wearied themselves in their superstitions they still worshipped their own devices; for God repudiated all the religion they thought they had. There is, then, to be understood an implied or indirect contrast between mount Zion and the temples which the first Jeroboam built in Dan and Bethel. The Israelites imagined that they worshipped the God of their father Abraham; and there were in those places greater displays (pompae — pomps) than at Jerusalem. But the Prophet Amos pours contempt on all these fictitious forms of worship; as though he said, “Ye indeed boast that the God of Abraham is honored and worshipped by you; but ye are degenerate, ye are covenant breakers, ye are perfidious towards God; he dwells not with you, for the sanctuaries, which you have made for yourselves, are nothing but brothels; God has chosen no habitation for himself, except mount Zion; there is his perpetual rest: Roar then will Jehovah from Zion.”

We now see what the Prophet had in view: for he not only shows here, that God was the author of his doctrine, but at the same time distinguishes between the true God and the idols, which the first Jeroboam made, when by this artifice he intended to withdraw the ten tribes from the house of David and wholly to alienate them from the tribe of Judah: it was then that he set up the calves in Dan and Bethel. The Prophet now shows that all these superstitions are condemned by the true God: Jehovah then shall roar from Zion, he will utter his voice from Jerusalem. He no doubt wished here to terrify the Israelites, who thought they had peace with God. Since, then, they abused his long-suffering, Amos now says that they would find at length that he was not asleep. “When God then shall long bear with your iniquities, he will at last rise up for judgment.”

By roaring is signified, as we said yesterday, the terrible voice of God; but the Prophet here speaks of God’s voice, rather than of what are called actual judgments really executed, that the Israelites might learn that the examples of punishments which God executes in the world happen not by chance, or at random, but proceed from his threatening; in short, the Prophet intimates that all punishments which God inflicts on the ungodly and the despisers of his word, are only the executions of what the Prophets proclaimed, in order that men, should there be any hope of their repentance, might anticipate the destruction which they hear to be nigh. The Prophet then commends here very highly the truth of what God teaches, by saying that it is not what vanishes, but what is accomplished; for when he destroys nations and kingdoms, it comes to pass according to prophecies: God then shall utter his voice from Jerusalem

Then it follows, And mourn shall the habitations of shepherds אבל, abel, means to mourn, and also to be laid waste, and to perish. Either sense will well suit this place. If we read, mourn, etc., then we must render the following thus, and ashamed shall be the head, or top, of Carmel. But if we read, perish, etc., then the verb בש besh must be translated, wither; and as we know that there were rich pastures on Carmel, I prefer this second rendering: wither then shall the top of Carmel; and the first clause must be taken thus, and perish shall the habitations of shepherds

As to what is intended, we understand the Prophet’s meaning to be, that whatever was pleasant and valuable in the kingdom of Israel would now shortly perish, because God would utter his voice from Zion The meaning then is this, — “Ye now lie secure, but God will soon, and even suddenly, put forth his power to destroy you; and this he will do, because he denounces on you destruction now by me, and will raise up other Prophets to be heralds of his vengeance: this will God execute by foreign and heathen nations; but yet your destruction will be according to these threatening which ye now count as nothing. Ye indeed think them to be empty words; but God will at length show that what he declares will be fully accomplished.”

With respect to Carmel, there were two mountains of this name; but as they were both very fertile, there is no need to take much trouble to inquire of which Carmel the Prophet speaks. Sufficient is what has been said, — that such a judgment is denounced on the kingdom of Israel as would consume all its fatness; for as we shall hereafter see, and the same thing has been already stated by the Prophet Hosea, there was great fertility as to pastures in that kingdom.

We must, at the same time, observe, that the Prophet, who was a shepherd, speaks according to his own character, and the manner of life which he followed. Another might have said, ‘Mourn shall the whole country, tremble shall the palaces,’ or something like this; but the Prophet speaks of mount Carmel, and of the habitations of shepherds, for he was a shepherd. His doctrine no doubt was despised, and many profane men probably said, “What! he thinks that he is still with his cows and with his sheep; he boasts that he is God’s prophet, and yet he is ever engrossed by his stalls and his sheepfolds.” It is then by no means improbable, but that he was thus derided by scornful men: but he purposely intended to blunt their petulance, by mingling with what he said as a Prophets those kinds of expressions which savored of his occupation as a shepherd. Let us now proceed —


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