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3. Witnesses Against Israel

Hear this word that the Lord hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying, 2You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities. 3Can two walk together, except they be agreed? 4Will a lion roar in the forest, when he hath no prey? will a young lion cry out of his den, if he have taken nothing? 5Can a bird fall in a snare upon the earth, where no gin is for him? shall one take up a snare from the earth, and have taken nothing at all? 6Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it? 7Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets. 8The lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord GOD hath spoken, who can but prophesy?

9Publish in the palaces at Ashdod, and in the palaces in the land of Egypt, and say, Assemble yourselves upon the mountains of Samaria, and behold the great tumults in the midst thereof, and the oppressed in the midst thereof. 10For they know not to do right, saith the Lord, who store up violence and robbery in their palaces. 11Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; An adversary there shall be even round about the land; and he shall bring down thy strength from thee, and thy palaces shall be spoiled. 12Thus saith the Lord; As the shepherd taketh out of the mouth of the lion two legs, or a piece of an ear; so shall the children of Israel be taken out that dwell in Samaria in the corner of a bed, and in Damascus in a couch. 13Hear ye, and testify in the house of Jacob, saith the Lord GOD, the God of hosts, 14That in the day that I shall visit the transgressions of Israel upon him I will also visit the altars of Bethel: and the horns of the altar shall be cut off, and fall to the ground. 15And I will smite the winter house with the summer house; and the houses of ivory shall perish, and the great houses shall have an end, saith the Lord.

The Prophet here accumulates similitudes which may, however, be reduced to five particulars. He first shows that he uttered no empty words, but had God’s authority for what he said; and he appeals to him as his witness and approver: this is one thing. Then he shows that God designedly announces the punishment he would inflict on transgressors, that they might in time repent, and that he does not cry out for no reason, as unreflecting men grow angry for nothing, but that he is driven to anger by just causes, and therefore terrifies them by his Prophets. He teaches, thirdly, that nothing happens by chance, that the Israelites might thereby be made to consider more attentively the judgments of God. In the fourth place, he declares that men are extremely stupid, when they are not moved by the threats which they hear proceed from God. He intimates, in the fifth place, that the execution of them was ready to take place, and that when God has denounced anything, his threatenings are not vain, such as those by which children are terrified.

These, then, are the five points, which we shall hereafter notice in their due order. He at the same time confirms what he said at the beginning of the chapter, — that God did not suddenly take vengeance on the Israelites, but called them to repentance, provided they were healable. He had indeed spoken before more distinctly, ‘For three transgressions, and for four, I will not be propitious to them:’ but now he demands attention from the people of Israel, “Hear this ye children of Israel, Will two men walk together, except they agree among themselves?” By these words he teaches, that though God might have immediately and unexpectedly brought punishment on them, he yet spared them and suspended his judgment, until they repented, provided they were not wholly irreclaimable. Amos now then confirms the truth, that God would not punish the Israelites, as he might justly, but would first try whether there was any hope of repentance.

Let us now come to the first similitude; he asks Will two walk together without agreeing? Some forcibly misapply the Prophet’s words, as though the meaning was, that God was constrained to depart from that people, because he saw that they were going astray so perversely after their lusts. The sense, according to these, would be, “Do you wish me to walk with you?” that is “Do you wish that my blessing should dwell among you, that I should show to you, as usual, my paternal love, and bountifully support you? Why then do ye not walk with me, or, why should there not be a mutual consent? Why do ye not respond to me? for I am ready to walk with you.” But this exposition, as ye see, is too strained. There are other two, which are these, — either that the Prophet intimates here that so many of God’s servants did not, as it were with one mouth, threaten the Israelites in vain, — or, that the consent of which he speaks was that of God with his Prophets. This last exposition being rather obscure, requires to be more clearly explained. Some, then, take the sense of this verse to be the following, — “I am not alone in denouncing punishment on you; for God has before warned you by other Prophets; many of them still live; and ye see how well we agree together: we have not conspired after the manner of men, and it has not happened by any agreements that Isaiah and Micah denounce on you what ye hear from my mouth. It is then a hidden accordance, which proceeds from the Holy Spirit.” This sense is not unsuitable.

But there is a third equally befitting, to which I have briefly referred, and that is, that the Prophet here affirms that he speaks by God’s command, as when two agree together, when they follow the same road; as when one meets with a chance companion, he asks him where he goes, and when he answers that he is going to a certain place, he says I am going on the same road with you. Then Amos by this similitude very fitly sets forth the accordance between God and his Prophets; for they did not rashly obtrude themselves so as to announce anything according to their own will, but waited for the call of God, and were fully persuaded that they did not by any chance go astray, but kept the road which the Lord had pointed out. This could not itself have been a sufficiently satisfactory proof of his call; but the Prophet had already entered on his course of teaching; and though nearly the whole people clamored against him, he yet had given no obscure proofs of his call. He does not then here mention the whole evidence, as though he intended to show that he was from the beginning the Prophet of God; but he only confirms, by way of reproof, what his teaching had before sufficiently attested. Hence he asks, Will two walk together except they agree among themselves? as though he said, “Ye are mistaken in judging of me, as though I were alone, and in making no account of God: ye think me to be a shepherd, and this is true; but it ought to be added, that I am sent by God and endued with the gift of prophecy. Since then I speak by God’s Spirit, I do not walk alone; for God goes before, and I am his companion. Know then that whatever I bring forward proceeds not from me, but God is the author of what I teach.”

This seems to be the genuine meaning of the Prophet: by this similitude he affirms that he faithfully discharged his office, for he had not separated himself from God, but was his companion: as when two agree together to travel the same road; so also he shows that he and God were agreed. If, however, the former interpretation be more approved, I will not dispute the point; that is, that the Prophet here confirms his own doctrine by alleging that he was not alone, but had other colleagues; for it was no common confirmation, when it appeared evident that the other Prophets added their testimony to what he taught. As, however, he does not apply this similitude in this way, I know not whether such was his design: I have therefore brought forward what seems to me to be a simpler view.


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