The Prophet shows that God had not once only spared the people, but that when he was again prepared for vengeance, he still willingly deferred it, that, if possible, the people might willingly recover themselves: but as all were unhealable, this forbearance of God produced no fruit. Now as to the words of the Prophet, we see that a heavier punishment is designated by the similitude of fire, than by what he said before when he spoke of locusts. We stated that by locusts is to be understood ordinarily a moderate punishment, one not so dreadful at first sight. For though the want and famine introduced by locusts, when they consume all kinds of fruit, are most grievous evils; yet fire sometimes strikes people with much greater dread. Hence the Prophet shows by mentioning fire, that God had become very indignant, having seen that the people had hardened themselves and could not be reformed by common and usual remedies. The Lord’s usual mode of proceeding, as he declares everywhere in Scriptures is this: At first he tries to find whether men are capable of being healed, and applies not the most grievous punishment, but such as may be endured; but when he perceives in sinners hardness and obstinacy, he doubles and trebles the punishment, yea, as he says by Moses, he increases his judgments sevenfold (Deu_28:25.) Such then was the manner which Amos now records; for God at first created the locusts, and then he kindled a fire, which consumed the great deep, and devoured their possession.
The point, denoting a participial form in the word here used, shows that they are mistaken who render יוצר, iutsar, creation, of which we have spoken before; for the point here corresponds with that in יוצר, iutsar, In both places the Lord shows himself to be the author of punishment, which is wont to be ascribed to chance; for men imagine that evils proceed from something else rather than from God. Hence it was necessary for this to be distinctly expressed, as the Prophet does also, when he says that locusts had been created by God, and that fire had been kindled by him.
God then called to contend by fire. It was not without a design that the Prophet uses the verb רוב, rub, which yet expositors have not duly weighed. For he indirectly condemns the hardness of the people, inasmuch as the Lord had already not only chastised the vices of the people, but had also contended with men depraved and obstinate: as when no justice can be obtained, a litigation becomes necessary; so the Prophet says here, that God was coming prepared with fire, to contend with the stubbornness of the people. The great deep, he says, was consumed by this fire. Hence what I have already said becomes more evident, — that a more dreadful punishment is here described than in the first vision. The locusts devoured the grass only but the fire penetrates into the utmost deep; it consumes and destroys not only the surface of the earth, but burns up the very roots, yea, it descends to the center and consumes the whole earth. They who render חלק, chelak, a part, do not sufficiently attend to the design of the Prophet, for he concludes that the surface of the earth had been laid waste, because the very gulfs had not escaped the burning. And when the fire reaches to the very bowels of the earth, how could their possession stand, which was also exposed to the heat of the sun? We see how the earth is burnt up by heat, when the sun is scorching at Midsummer. We now perceive the Prophet’s design.
Called to contend by fire; Septuaguint, ἐκάλεσε τὴν δίκην ἐν πυρί, “called for judgment by fire;” Vulgate, vocabat judicium ad ignem. God called the people to try their cause with him by sending fire as a punishment among them (comp. Isa_66:16; Eze_38:22); and in the vision the fire is represented as so vehement that it devoured the great deep, drank up the very ocean itself (Gen_7:11; Isa_51:10); or the subterranean fountains and springs, as Gen_49:25. And did eat up a part; τὴν μερίδα κυρίου. This version takes eth-hacheleq as the “inheritance” or “portion” of the Lord, i.e. the land of Israel (Jer_12:10); but Canaan is nowhere called absolutely “the portion;” nor were the ten tribes specially so designated. Rather, the portion (not a part) is that part of the land and people which was marked out for judgment. The particular calamity alluded to is the second invasion of Tigiath-Pileser II, when he conquered Gilead and the northern part of the kingdom, and carried some of the people captive to Assyria (2Ki_15:29).
God called to contend by fire – that is, He “called” His people to maintain their cause with Him “by fire,” as He says, “I will plead” in judgment “with him” (Gog) “with” (that is,” by”) pestilence and blood” Eze_38:22; and, “by fire and by His sword will the Lord plead with all flesh” Isa_66:16; and, “The Lord standeth up to plead and standeth to judge the people” Isa_3:13. Man, by rebellion, challenges God’s Omnipotence. He will have none of Him; he will find his own happiness for himself, apart from God and in defiance of Him and His laws; he plumes himself on his success, and accounts his strength or wealth or prosperity the test of the wisdom of his policy. God, sooner or later, accepts the challenge. He brings things to the issue, which man had chosen. He “enters into judgment” (Isa_3:14, etc.) with him. If man escapes with impunity, then he had chosen well, in rejecting God and choosing his own ways. If not, what folly and misery was his short-sighted choice; short-lived in its gain; its loss, eternal! “Fire” stands as the symbol and summary of God’s most terrible judgments. It spares nothing, leaves nothing, not even the outward form of what it destroys. Here it is plainly a symbol, since it destroys “the sea” also, which shall be destroyed only by the fire of the Day of Judgment, when “the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” 2Pe_3:10. The sea is called the “great deep,” only in the most solemn language, as the history of the creation or the flood, the Psalms and poetical books. Here it is used, in order to mark the extent of the desolation represented in the vision.
And did eat up a part – Rather literally, “The portion,” that is, probably the definite “portion” foreappointed by God to captivity and desolation. This probably our English Version meant by “a part.” For although God calls Himself “the Portion” of Israel Deu_32:9; Jer_10:16; Zec_2:12, and of those who are His (Psa_16:5; Psa_73:26, etc; Jer_10:16), and reciprocally He calls the people “the Lord’s portion Jer_12:10, and the land, the portion Mic_2:4 of God’s people; yet the land is nowhere called absolutely “the portion,” nor was the country of the ten tribes specially “the portion,” given by God. Rather God exhibits in vision to the prophet, the ocean burned up, and “the portion” of Israel, upon which His judgments were first to fall. To this Amos points, as “the portion.” God knew “the portion,” which Tiglath-Pileser would destroy, and when he came and had carried captive the east and north of Israel, the pious in Israel would recognize the second, more desolating scourge, foretold by Amos; they would own that it was at the prayer of the prophet that it was stayed and went no further, and would await what remained.
Cambridge Bible Driver
Amos 7:4–6. The second vision. The devouring fire.
called to contend by fire] Jehovah arraigns His people: and fire is the agent which he summons against them (cf. to dispute, or litigate, with fire, Is. 66:16). For the idea of Jehovah’s contending (in a forensic sense) with His people, comp. Is. 3:13; Jer. 2:9; Hos. 4:1; Mic. 6:2 (where the corresponding substantive is rendered controversy); and for calleth, comp. on v. 8.
and it devoured the great deep, and would have devoured the portion] The imagery is suggested, no doubt, by the conflagrations which, in the East, break out in field and forest during the dry season (Joel 1:19, 20), and spread with alarming rapidity (comp. Ps. 83:14, Is. 9:18; and see Thomson, The Land and the Book, ii. 291–293). So fierce was the flame thus kindled that it even dried up the ‘great deep’ (Gen. 7:11), the subterranean waters upon which the Hebrews imagined the earth to rest (Gen. 1:7; Ex. 20:4; Ps. 24:2), and whence they supposed all its springs and fountains to have their supply; when these were exhausted, “it seemed as if the solid framework of the land, described with very apt pathos as the Portion (i.e. the portion [Mic. 2:3, &c.] assigned by God to His people), would be the next to disappear” (G. A. Smith, p. 111). The judgement is thus a more severe one than that of the locusts.
He adds, that God was again pacified. We must ever bear in mind the object he had in view; for ungodly men thought the Prophets to be liars, whenever God did not immediately execute the vengeance he had denounced: but Amos here reminds them, that when God defers punishment, he does not in vain threaten, but waits for men to repent; and that if they still go on in abusing his patience, they will have at last to feel how dreadful is the vengeance which awaits all those who thus pervert the goodness of God, who hear not God inviting them so kindly to himself. This is the meaning. It follows —
Keil & Delitzch
The Devouring Fire. – Amo_7:4. “Thus the Lord Jehovah showed me: and, behold, the Lord Jehovah called to punish with fire; and it devoured the great flood, and devoured the portion. Amo_7:5. And I said, Lord Jehovah, leave off, I pray: how can Jacob stand? for it is small. Amo_7:6. Jehovah repented of this; this also shall not take place, said the Lord Jehovah.” That the all-devouring fire represents a much severer judgment than that depicted under the figure of the locusts, is generally acknowledged, and needs no proof. But the more precise meaning of this judgment is open to dispute, and depends upon the explanation of the fourth verse. The object to קֹרֵא is לָרִיב בָּאֵשׁ, and רִיב is to be taken as an infinitive, as in Isa_3:13 : He called to strive (i.e., to judge or punish) with fire.
There is no necessity to supply ministros suos here. The expression is a concise one, for “He called to the fire to punish with fire” (for the expression and the fact, compare Isa_66:16). This fire devoured the great flood. Tehōm rabbâh is used in Gen_7:11 and Isa_51:10, etc., to denote the unfathomable ocean; and in Gen_1:2 tehōm is the term applied to the immense flood which surrounded and covered the globe at the beginning of the creation. וְאָֽכְלָה, as distinguished from וַתֹּאכַל, signifies an action in progress, or still incomplete (Hitzig). The meaning therefore is, “it also devoured (began to devour) ‘eth-hachēleq;” i.e., not the field, for a field does not form at all a fitting antithesis to the ocean; and still less “the land,” for chēleq never bears this meaning; but the inheritance or portion, namely, that of Jehovah (Deu_32:9), i.e., Israel. Consequently tehōm rabbâh cannot, of course, signify the ocean as such. For the idea of the fire falling upon the ocean, and consuming it, and then beginning to consume the land of Israel, by which the ocean was bounded (Hitzig), would be too monstrous; nor is it justified by the simple remark, that “it was as if the last great conflagration (2Pe_3:10) had begun” (Schmieder). As the fire is to earthly fire, but the fire of the wrath of God, and therefore a figurative representation of the judgment of destruction; and as hachēleq (the portion) is not the land of Israel, but according to Deuteronomy (l.c.) Israel, or the people of Jehovah; so tehōm rabbâh is not the ocean, but the heathen world, the great sea of nations, in their rebellion against the kingdom of God. The world of nature in a state of agitation is a frequent symbol in the Scriptures for the agitated heathen world (e.g., Psa_46:3; Psa_93:3-4).
On the latter passage, Delitzsch has the following apt remark: “The stormy sea is a figurative representation of the whole heathen world, in its estrangement from God, and enmity against Him, or the human race outside the true church of God; and the rivers are figurative representations of the kingdoms of the world, e.g., the Nile of the Egyptian (Jer_46:7-8), the Euphrates of the Assyrian (Isa_8:7-8), or more precisely still, the arrow-swift Tigris of the Assyrian, and the winding Euphrates of the Babylonian (Isa_27:1).” This symbolism lies at the foundation of the vision seen by the prophet. The world of nations, in its rebellion against Jehovah, the Lord and King of the world, appears as a great flood, like the chaos at the beginning of the creation, or the flood which poured out its waves upon the globe in the time of Noah. Upon this flood of nations does fire from the Lord fall down and consume them; and after consuming them, it begins to devour the inheritance of Jehovah, the nation of Israel also. The prophet then prays to the Lord to spare it, because Jacob would inevitably perish in this conflagration; and the Lord gives the promise that “this shall not take place,” so that Israel is plucked like a firebrand out of the fire (Amo_4:11).
If we inquire now into the historical bearing of these two visions, so much is à priori clear, – namely, that both of them not only indicate judgments already past, but also refer to the future, since no fire had hitherto burned upon the surface of the globe, which had consumed the world of nations and threatened to annihilate Israel. If therefore there is an element of truth in the explanation given by Grotius to the first vision, “After the fields had been shorn by Benhadad (2Ki_13:3), and after the damage which was then sustained, the condition of Israel began to flourish once more during the reign of Jeroboam the son of Joash, as we see from 2Ki_14:15,” according to which the locusts would refer to the invasion on the part of the Assyrians in the time of Pul; this application is much too limited, neither exhausting the contents of the first vision, nor suiting in the smallest degree the figure of the fire. The “mowing of the king” (Amo_7:1) denotes rather all the judgments which the Lord had hitherto poured out upon Israel, embracing everything that the prophet mentions in Amo_4:6-10. The locusts are a figurative representation of the judgments that still await the covenant nation, and will destroy it even to a small remnant, which will be saved through the prayers of the righteous. The vision of the fire has a similar scope, embracing all the past and all the future; but this also indicates the judgments that fall upon the heathen world, and will only receive its ultimate fulfilment in the destruction of everything that is ungodly upon the face of the earth, when the Lord comes in fire to strive with all flesh (Isa_66:15-16), and to burn up the earth and all that is therein, on the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men (2Pe_3:7, 2Pe_3:10-13). The removal of the two judgments, however, by Jehovah in consequence of the intercession of the prophet, shows that these judgments are not intended to effect the utter annihilation of the nation of God, but simply its refinement and the rooting out of the sinners from the midst of it, and that, in consequence of the sparing mercy of God, a holy remnant of the nation of God will be left. The next two visions refer simply to the judgment which awaits the kingdom of the ten tribes in the immediate future.
As our Lord repeated the same words in the Garden, so Amos interceded with God with words, all but one, the same, and with the same plea, that, if God did not help, Israel was indeed helpless. Yet a second time God spared Israel. To human sight, what so strange and unexpected, as that the Assyrian and his army, having utterly destroyed the kingdom of Damascus, and carried away its people, and having devoured, like fire, more than half of Israel, rolled back like an ebb-tide, swept away to ravage other countries, and spared the capital? And who, looking at the mere outside of things, would have thought that that tide of fire was rolled back, not by anything in that day, but by the prophet’s prayer some 47 years before? Man would look doubtless for motives of human policy, which led Tiglath-pileser to accept tribute from Pekah, while he killed Rezin; and while he carried off all the Syrians of Damascus, to leave half of Israel to be removed by his successor.
Humanly speaking, it was a mistake. He “scotched” his enemy only, and left him to make alliance with Egypt, his rival, who disputed with him the possession of the countries which lay between them. If we knew the details of Assyrian policy, we might know what induced him to turn aside in his conquest. There were, and always are, human motives. They do not interfere with the ground in the mind of God, who directs and controls them. Even in human contrivances, the wheels, interlacing one another, and acting one on the other, do but transmit, the one to the other, the motion and impulse which they have received from the central force. The revolution of the earth around its own center does not interfere with, rather it is a condition of its revolving round the center of our system, and, amidst the alternations of night and day, brings each several portion within the influence of the sun around which it revolves. The affairs of human kingdoms have their own subordinate centers of human policy, yet even thereby they the more revolve in the circuit of God’s appointment. In the history of His former people God gives us a glimpse into a hidden order of things, the secret spring and power of His wisdom, which sets in motion that intricate and complex machinery which alone we see, and in the sight of which people lose the consciousness of the unseen agency. While man strives with man, prayer, suggested by God, moves God, the Ruler of all.
This vision opens more clearly to us what the Prophet meant before, and what was the object of his doctrine: his intention was to show the people that what they had gained by their obstinacy was only to render God implacable, and to cause him not to spare them any longer, as he had hitherto done. The meaning is, — “God has hitherto borne with you according to his own goodness, promise not to yourselves that he will ever deal in the same manner with you; for your contumacy and waywardness has provoked him. As he sees you to be beyond measure obstinate, he must now necessarily execute on you final vengeance. There is therefore now no forgiveness provided for you; but as ye are incurable, so the Lord on his part will remain unchangeable in the rigor of his judgment, and will by no means turn to mercy.”
Interpreters explain this vision in various ways, and refinedly philosophize on the word,plumbline; and yet frigid are almost all their refinements. Were I disposed plausibly to handle this passage, I would say, that the plumbline is the law of God; for it prescribed to his people a regular order of things, which might serve as a plumbline; inasmuch as all things were directed according to the best rule. I might speak thus; but I am not disposed to refine in this manner; for I doubt not but that God meant only that this would be the last measuring; for he would punish his people without any remission and without any delay. We now apprehend the Prophet’s meaning: but all this will become more evident from the words of the passage.
Thus he showed to me; and, behold, the Lord stood on a wall of a plumbline. The wall of a plumbline he calls that which had been formed by rule, as though he had said that it was a wall by a plumbline. God then stood on a plumbline-wall, and a plumbline, he says, was in his hand False then is what some interpreters say, that a plumbline was cast away by God, because he would no more perform the office of a mason in ruling his people. This is frivolous; for the Prophet testifies here expressly that a plumbline was in the hand of God.
Upon (rather, over) a wall made by a plumb line. The word translated “plumb line” (anakh) occurs only here. Septuagint ἀδάμας: so the Syriac; Vulgate, trulla caementarii; Aquila, γάνωσις, “brightening,” “splendor;” Theodotion, τήκομενον. As the word in other dialects means tin or lead, it is usually taken here to mean the plumb line which builders use to ascertain that their work is even and perpendiculur. The “wall” is the kingdom of Israel, once carefully built up, solidly constructed, accurately arranged. God had made it upright; how was it now?
Stood upon – (Rather “over” “a wall” made by “a plumbline;” lit. “a wall of a plumbline,” that is, (as our’s has it) “made” straight, perpendicular, “by” it. The wall had been “made by a lead” or “plumbline;” by it, that is, according to it, it should e destroyed. God had made it upright, He had given to it an undeviating rule of right, He had watched over it, to keep it, as He made it. Now “He stood over it,” fixed in His purpose, to destroy it. He marked its inequalities. Yet this too in judgment. He destroys it by that same rule of right wherewith He had built it. By that law, that right, those providential leadings, that grace, which we have received, by the same we are judged.
But that which follows has an important meaning: God asks his Prophet, What sees thou, Amos? It is probable that the Prophet was astonished at a thing so mysterious. When locusts were formed, and when there was a contention by fire, he might have easily gathered what God meant; for these visions were by no means ambiguous: but when God stood on a wall with a plumbline, this was somewhat more hard to be understood; and the probability is, that the Prophet was made to feel much astonishment, that the people might be more attentive to hear his vision, as we commonly apply our thoughts more to hidden things; for we coldly attend to what we think to be easily understood; but mysteriousness, or something difficult to be known, sharpens our minds and attention. I do not then doubt but that God made the Prophet for a time to feel amazed, with the view of increasing the attention of the people. What then dost thou see, Amos? A plumbline, he says: but, at the same time, he knew not what was the meaning of this plumbline, or what was its design. Then God answers, Behold, I set a plumbline in the midst of my people; that is, I fix this to be the last rule, or the final measure, and I will not add any more to pass by them As God had twice leaped over the bounds of his judgment by sparing them, he says, now that the last end was come, “I will proceed no farther,” he says, “in forgiving them: as when a wall is formed to the plumbline, that no part may, in the least, exceed another, but that there may be regularity throughout so also this shall be the last order; this measuring shall be true and just. I will pass by them no more.” This, I have no doubt, is the real meaning of the Prophet. We now also perceive the design of the other two visions to have been to prevent the Israelites from deceiving themselves by false self-flatteries, because God was kind and favorable to them. He shows that he dealt so with them, not because they were just; for God had already begun to execute his judgments on them; and the punishments with which they had been visited were strong evidences of their crimes: for God is not without reasons angry with men, especially with his chosen people. Since then they had been already smitten once and again, the Prophet proves that they were worthy of heavier punishments; and that punishments had been mild and moderated, was to be ascribed, he says, to the indulgence of God, because he was willing to forgive his people; but that the time had now come when he would no longer pardon them; for he saw that he had to do with irreclaimable obstinacy. This is the meaning.
Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown
plumb-line in … midst of … Israel — No longer are the symbols, as in the former two, stated generally; this one is expressly applied to Israel. God’s long-suffering is worn out by Israel’s perversity: so Amos ceases to intercede (compare Gen_18:33). The plummet line was used not only in building, but in destroying houses (2Ki_21:13; Isa_28:17; Isa_34:11; Lam_2:8). It denotes that God’s judgments are measured out by the most exact rules of justice. Here it is placed “in the midst” of Israel, that is, the judgment is not to be confined to an outer part of Israel, as by Tiglath-pileser; it is to reach the very center. This was fulfilled when Shalmaneser, after a three years’ siege of Samaria, took it and carried away Israel captive finally to Assyria (2Ki_17:3, 2Ki_17:5, 2Ki_17:6, 2Ki_17:23).
not … pass by … any more — not forgive them any more (Amo_8:2; Pro_19:11; Mic_7:18).
It now follows, And destroyed shall be the high places of Isaac, and overthrown shall be the sanctuaries (some render palaces) of Israel; and I will rise up against the house of Jeroboam with the sword. The Prophet here distinctly declares, that the people in vain trusted in their temples and superstitions, for by these they kindled the more against themselves the wrath of God. He would not indeed have expressly threatened the high places and the temples, unless the Israelites had provoked in this way, as I have already said, the vengeance of God against themselves, inasmuch as they had corrupted the true and lawful worship of God.
Destroyed then shall be the high places of Isaac It may be asked, Why does he mention here the name of Isaac, which is rarely done by the Prophets? And there is also a change of one letter; for the word Isaac is commonly written with ץ, tsade, but here it is written with ש, shin; but it is well known that ש, shin and ץ, tsade, are interchangeably used. It is, however, beyond dispute, that the Prophet speaks here of the holy man Isaac; and the reason seems to be plainly this, — because the Israelites absurdly pretended to imitate their father in their superstitions; for temples, we know, had been erected where Isaac had worshipped God, and also their father Abraham and Jacob. Inasmuch then as the Israelites boasted of the examples of holy fathers, the Prophet here condemns this vain and false boasting. They who understand by the word Isaac, that the Prophet threatens the Idumeans as well as the Israelites, have no reason for their opinion; but the reason which I have already mentioned is quite sufficient.
We indeed know, that the Israelites had ever in their mouths the examples of the fathers, like the woman of Samaria, who said to Christ, ‘Our fathers worshipped in this mountain,’ (Joh_4:20) So also the Israelites were wont formerly to allege, that the holy patriarchs worshipped God in those places, — that God appeared in Bethel to holy Jacob, and also that in other places altars were built. Being armed with the examples of the fathers, they thought them to be their shield. The case is the same with the Papists in our day; when they hear of anything as having been done by the fathers, they instantly lay hold on it; but these are vain excuses. Like them were also the Israelites; hence the Prophet says, “Behold, ye gain nothing by this fallacious pretense; for destroyed shall be the high places of Isaac, even those which are now covered by an honorable name: and at the same time the temples or palaces of Israel shall be overthrown.
And I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword We learn from this last clause that things were then, as we have stated elsewhere, in a prosperous state in the kingdom of Israel, though God had in various ways wasted it before Jeroboam: but they had been ever obstinate. He afterwards restored them to a better condition; for the state of the people greatly improved under Jeroboam: he recovered many cities enlarged the borders of his kingdoms and then the people, in their affluence began to grow wanton against God. As then the Prophet thus saw that they abused God’s goodness, he denounced destruction on Jeroboam; hence he says, Against the house of Jeroboam I will rise up with the sword; that is, “I will begin to execute my judgment on the offspring of the king himself; though I may spare him, yet his posterity shall not escape my hand.”
And the high places of Isaac shall be desolate – Their total destruction is at hand. The high place of Isaac was Beer-sheba, where Isaac had built an altar to the Lord, Gen_26:25. This high place, which had been abused to idolatrous uses, was demolished by Josiah, king of Judah, as we read in 2Ki_23:8, for he defiled all the high places from Geba to Beersheba.
I will rise against the house of Jeroboam – The Lord had promised to Jehu, the ancestor of Jeroboam, that his family should sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation. Zechariah, the son of Jeroboam, was the fourth in order after Jehu; and on him the threatening in this verse fell; for he was murdered by Shallum after he had reigned six months, and in him the family became extinct. See 2Ki_10:30; 2Ki_15:8-10.
The high places of Isaac – He probably calls the ten tribes by the name of Isaac, as well as of Israel, in order to contrast their deeds with the blameless, gentle piety of Isaac, as well as the much-tried faithfulness of Israel. It has been thought too that he alludes to the first meaning of the name of Isaac. His name was given from the joyous laughter at the unheard-of promise of God, to give children to those past age; their high places should be a laughter, but the laughter of mockery . The “sanctuaries” were perhaps the two great idol-temples at Bethel and Dan, over against the one “sanctuary” of God at Jerusalem; the “high places” were the shrines of idolatry, especially where God had shown mercy to the patriarchs and Israel, but also all over the land. All were to be wasted, because all were idolatrous.
I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword – God speaks after the manner of people, who, having been still, arise against the object of their enmity. He makes Himself so far one with the instruments of His sentence, that, what they do, He ascribes to Himself. Jeroboam II must, from his military success, have been popular among his people. Successful valor is doubly prized, and he had both valor and success. God had “saved Israel by” His “hand” 2Ki_14:27. A weak successor is often borne with for the merits of his father. There were no wars from without which called for strong military energy or talent, and which might furnish an excuse for superseding a faineant king. Ephraim had no ambition of foreign glory, to gratify. Zechariah, Jeroboam’s son, was a sensualist ; but many sensualists have, at all times, reigned undisturbed. Shallum who murdered Zechariah was simply a “conspirator” 2Ki_15:10; he represented no popular impulse, and was slain himself a month 2Ki_15:13-14 after. Yet Amos foretells absolutely that the house of Jeroboam should perish by the sword, and in the next generation his name was clean put out.
Cambridge Bible Driver
Amos 7:9. high places] local sanctuaries, usually situated on eminences (1 Ki. 14:23; 2 Ki. 17:10 f.), a little outside the towns to which they belonged (cf. 1 Sam. 9:12, 14, 19, 25, 10:5), sometimes, where no natural eminence was available, erected, it is probable, upon artificial mounds (cf. Jer. 7:31; 2 Ki. 17:9). The custom of worshipping at such spots was borrowed, as seems evident (cf. Deut. 12:2), from the Canaanites: it also prevailed in Moab (Is. 15:2, 16:12: Mesha also, in his Inscription, 50:3, tells us that he had “made a high-place” for his god Chemosh). The sanctuaries in question consisted of a “house,” or shrine (1 Ki. 12:31, 13:32), with an altar, and were served by priests (1 Ki. 12:31–33, 13:33; 2 Ki. 23:9): they are often alluded to as popular places of sacrifice, especially during the period of the monarchy (1 Sam. ll. cc.; 1 Ki. 22:43; 2 Ki. 12:3, 14:4, 15:4, &c.). Worship at such local sanctuaries, down to the 7th cent. b.c., in so far as it was not contaminated with heathen elements, was regarded as quite regular (comp. Ex. 20:24; 1 Sam. 9:13, where Samuel presides at and blesses the sacrifice at such a bâmāh; 1 Ki. 3:4, 18:30); but under the centralizing influence of Deuteronomy, a change came in, and it was treated as illegitimate. The compiler of the Book of Kings, in his condemnation of the worship at the high-places, reflects the Deuteronomic standpoint. Amos, in so far as he refers to the bâmōth with disparagement, does so, not on account of their conflicting with the Deuteronomic law of the single sanctuary, but on account of the unspiritual character of the worship carried on at them. Comp. Nowack, Heb. Arch. ii. 12–14.
Isaac] As in v. 16, a poetic synonym of Israel (not so elsewhere).
and I will rise, &c.] For the expression, cf. Is. 30:2; for the thought, Hos. 1:4, where the same dissatisfaction with the dynasty of Jehu finds expression.
with the sword] Jehovah’s agent, then, will be the army of an invader, the nation, viz., whom in 6:14 He says that He will “raise up” against Israel.
The Prophet here relates the device by which Satan attempted to depress his mind, that he might not go on in the discharge of his prophetic office. He says, that Amaziah had sent to the king to induce him to adopt some severe measure; for he pretended that as Amos scattered words full of sedition, and made turbulent speeches, the affairs of the king could not be carried on, except the king in due time prevented him: and besides, the same Amaziah said, that nothing could be better for the Prophet than to flee into the land of Judah, as he might live in safety there; for he had incurred great danger in having dared to prophesy against the king. It hence appears that Amaziah was a perfidious and cunning man, but not so bloody as to attempt openly anything serious against the Prophet’s life; unless perhaps he thought that this could not be done, and gave this advice, not so much through his kindness, as that the thing was impracticable: and this second supposition is probable from the words of the passage.
For, in the first place the Prophet says, that Amaziah had sent to the king He then tried whether he could excite the king’s mind to persecute Amos. It may be that his design did succeed: hence he undertook what in the second place is related, that is, he called the Prophet to himself, and tried to frighten him, and drive him by fear from the land of Israel, that he might no longer be troublesome to them. But we must, in the first place, notice the motive by which this Amaziah was influenced, when he endeavored so much, by any means possible, to banish the Prophet from the kingdom of Israel. It is certainly not credible that he was influenced by what he pretended to the king, that there was a danger of sedition; but it was a pretense cunningly made. Amaziah then had a care for his own advantage, as we see to be the case in our day with cardinals and milted bishops who frequent the courts of princes, and do not honestly profess what their designs are; for they see that their tyranny cannot stand unless the gospel be abolished; they see that our doctrine threatens to become a cold and even an ice to their kitchens; and then they see that they can be of no account in the world, except they crush us. And what do they at the same time pretend? that our doctrine cannot be received without producing a change in the whole world, without ruin to the whole civil order, without depriving kings of their power and dignity. It is then by these malicious artifices that they gain favor to themselves. Such was the device of Amaziah, and such was his manoeuvre in opposing the Prophet Amos.
Behold, he says to the king, he has conspired against thee קשר, kosher, is to bind, but, by a metaphor, it signifies to conspire: Conspired then has Amos against thee. But who speaks? Amaziah; and the Prophet omits not the title of Amaziah; for he says that he was the priest of Bethel He might have only said, “Amaziah sent to king Jeroboam”, but by mentioning that he was a priest, the Prophet shows that Amaziah did not strive for the peace of the public, as he pretended; and that this was therefore a fallacious pretense, for he fought for his own Helen, that is, he fought for his own kitchen, in short, for his living: for he would have been deprived, with disgrace, of his priesthood, and then reduced to penury and want, except he had driven away the Prophet Amos. Since then he saw that such and so great an evil was nigh him except Amos was banished, he had this object in view, and pretended another thing, and sent to the king and said, Amos has conspired; and he enhances the crime, In the midst of the house of Israel. “This is not done,” he says “in a corners or in some obscure place; but his doctrine is heard on all the public roads, whole cities are filled with it; in short, it burns like fire in the very bosom, in the very midst of the kingdom; and thou wilt soon find thy own house to be all in a flame, unless thou applies a remedy, yea, except thou extinguishest it.” We hence see how Amaziah acted, and the reason why he so earnestly persuaded the king to give liberty no longer to the Prophet Amos.
With regard to what follows, — that the land could no longer bear his words, the sentence admits of two probable meanings. The first is, that he said, that the people, being offended with his turbulent doctrine, did now of themselves hate and detest the Prophet Amos, as a seditious man. Kings are in our day stirred on in like manner, — “Why do you delay? Your subjects desire nothing so much as to extinguish this evil, and all of them will eagerly assist you: ye are in the meantime idle, and your people complain of your tardiness. They think the princes in power are unworthy of their station, since they thus suffer the ancient rites and ordinances of holy Mother Church to fall into decay.” So they speak: and we may imagine the words of Amaziah to have been in the same strain, — that he stimulated the king by this artifice — that the people were prepared to do their part. The other meaning is this, The land cannot bear his words; that is, “If he goes on here with full liberty to raise tumults, as he has begun, the whole kingdom will be on the verge of ruin, for many will follow him; and when an open sedition will arise, it cannot be checked without great difficulty. We must therefore make every haste, lest Amos should get the upper hand; for there is already the greatest danger.” As the Pharisees held a consultation, and said, ‘Lest the Romans come and take away our place and nation,’ (Joh_11:48) so also Amaziah might have excited the king by causing him to fear, that the land, the country, or its inhabitants, had been disturbed by the words of Amos, and that therefore it was time to put a stop to him. Such was the message of Amaziah to the king.
Amaziah, the priest of Bethel – Was probably the high priest, in imitation of the high priest of the order of Aaron and of God’s appointment. For the many high places around Bethel required many idol-priests; and a splendid counterfeit of the ritual at Jerusalem, which should rival it in the eyes of Israel, was part of the policy of the first Jeroboam. Amaziah was at the head of this imposture, in a position probably of wealth and dignity among his people. Like “Demetriers the silversmith” Acts 19, he thought that the craft whereby he had his wealth was endangered. To Jeroboam, however, he says nothing of these fears. To the king he makes it an affair of state. He takes the king by what he expected to be his weak side, fear for his own power or life. “Amos hath conspired against thee.” So to Jeremiah “the captain of the ward” said, “Thou fallest away to the Chaldeans” Jer_37:13.
And the princes; “Let this man be put to death, for thus he weakeneth the hands of the men of war that remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, in speaking such words unto them: for this man seeketh not the welfare of this people, but the hurt” Jer_38:4. And of our Lord they said to Pilate, “If thou let this Man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend. Whosoever maketh himself a king, is an enemy to Caesar” Joh_19:12. And of the Apostles; “these men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, and teach customs which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans” Act_16:20-21; and, “these that have turned the world upside down are come hither also – and these all do contrary to the decrees of Cesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus” Act_17:6-7. And so the pagan, who were ever conspiring against the Roman Emperors, went on accusing the early Christians as disloyal to the Emperors, factious, impious, because they did not offer sacrifices for them to false gods, but prayed for them to the True God . Some doubtless, moved by the words of Amos, had forsaken the state-idolatry, reformed their lives, worshiped God with the prophet; perhaps they were called in contempt by his name, “Amosites” or “Judaizers,” and were counted as “his” adherents, not as the worshipers of the one true God, “the God of their fathers.” Whence Amaziah gained the plea of a “conspiracy,” of which Amos was the head. For a “conspiracy” cannot be of one man. The word, by its force, signifies “banded;” the idiom, that he “banded” others “together against” 1Sa_22:8, 1Sa_22:13; 1Ki_15:27; 1Ki_16:9, 1Ki_16:16; 2Ki_10:9; 2Ki_14:19; 2Ki_15:10, 2Ki_15:15, 2Ki_15:25; 2Ki_21:23 the king. To us Amaziah attests the power of God’s word by His prophet; “the land,” that is, the whole people, “is not able to bear his words,” being shaken through and through.
Now our Prophet is wholly silent as to the answer of the king: it is therefore probable, either that the king was not much excited, — or that he dared not openly to take away the life of Amos; for he had probably obtained some authority among the people; and though he was hated, yet his name as a Prophet and his office were had in reverence, — or that the matter was by agreement arranged between the two enemies of sound doctrine, as flatterers often gratify kings by putting themselves in their place, and by bearing all the ill will. However this might have been, it is certainly a probable conjecture, that the king did not interfere, because he was so persuaded by the priest Amaziah, or because he feared the people, or because religion restrained him, as even the ungodly are sometimes wont to contain themselves within the bounds of moderation; not that they are touched by real fear towards God, or that they desire to embrace his true worship: they wish God to be thrust down from heaven, they wish all knowledge of religion to be obliterated; but yet they dare not pour forth their fury. Such fear then might have seized the mind of Jeroboam, that he did not tyrannically rage against the Prophet Amos. But if we regard the tendency of the words of Amaziah, he certainly wished the Prophet Amos to be immediately visited with capital punishment; for conspiracy is a crime worthy of death; and then, fear might have impelled the king to put the holy Prophet immediately to death. Amaziah therefore expected more than what he attained: and then appeared his vulpine wiliness, for he sent for the Prophet and advised him to withdraw to the land of Judah. Hence, as I said at the beginning, it is very probable that Jeroboam was not excited according to the expectation of the ungodly priest of Bethel, who at first was a cruel wild beast; but when he could not proceed openly to destroy Amos, he put on a new character; he became a fox, because he could do nothing as a raging lion. Hence follows his second attempt, And Amaziah said to Amos, etc.
I have passed over one clause in the last verse: Amos says, By the sword shall Jeroboam die, and Israel, by migrating, shall migrate from their own land. These, in short, are two heads of accusation. Some interpreters think that Amaziah had slanderously perverted the words of the Prophet Amos; for he did not denounce death on king Jeroboam, but only on his people and posterity: but I do not insist on this. It might then be, that Amaziah did not designedly pervert the words of Amos, but only wished to excite the ill will of the king. Die then shall Jeroboam or his posterity with the sword, and Israel also, by migrating, shall migrate from their own land. We hence learn, that Amaziah was not impelled only by the last address of the Prophet Amos, but that he then discovered the hatred which he had long harbored. Amaziah therefore had been, no doubt, on his watch, and had heard what Amos daily taught, and when he thought the matter ripe, he sent to the king. Having tried this way, and found that it did not answer, he came to his second attempt, which we are now to consider.
For thus Amos saith – Amos had said, “Thus saith the Lord;” he never fails to impress on them, whose words he is speaking. Amaziah, himself bound up in a system of falsehood and imposture, which, being a creature-worship, gave itself out as the worship of the true God, believed all besides to be fraud. Fraud always suspects fraud; the irreligious think devotion, holiness, saintliness to be hypocrisy: vice imagines virtue to be well-masked vice. The false priest, by a sort of law of corrupt nature, supposed that Amos also was false, and treats his words as the produce of his own mind.
Jeroboam shall die by the sword – Amos had not said this. The false prophet distorts the last words of Amos, which were yet in his ears, and reports to Jeroboam, as said of himself, what Amos had just said of his “house.” Amos “was” opposed to the popular religion or irreligion of which Jeroboam was the head, to the headship over which he had succeeded. Jeroboam, like the Roman Emperors, was high priest, Pontifex Maximus, in order to get the popular worship under his control. The first Jeroboam had himself consecrated the calf-priests 1Sa_22:8, 1Sa_22:13; 1Ki_15:27; 1Ki_16:9, 1Ki_16:16; 2Ki_10:9; 2Ki_14:19; 2Ki_15:10, 2Ki_15:15, 2Ki_15:25; 2Ki_21:23. Amos bore also the message from God, that the reprieve, given to the house of Jehu, would not be extended, but would end. Amaziah would act on the personal fears of the king, as though there had been some present active conspiracy against him. A lie, mixed with truth, is the most deadly form of falsehood, the truth serving to gain admittance for the lie, and color it, and seeming to require explanation, and being something to full back upon. Since thus much is certainly true, why should not the rest be so? In slander, and heresy which is slander against God, truth is used to commend the falsehood; and falsehood, to destroy the truth. The poison is received the more fearlessly because wrapt up in truth, but loses none of its deadliness.
And Israel shall surely be led away captive – This was a suppression of truth, as the other was a falsification of it. Amaziah omits both the ground of the threat, and the hope of escape urged and impressed upon them. On the one side he omits all mention of what even such a king as Jeroboam would respect, the denunciation of oppression of the poor, injustice, violence, robbery, and all their other sins against man. On the other hand, he omits the call to repentance and promises on it, “seek ye the Lord and live.” He omits too the prophet’s intercession for his people, and selects the one prophecy, which could give a mere political character to the whole. Suppression of truth is a yet subtler character of falsehood. Hence, witnesses on oath are required to tell, not the truth only., but the whole truth. Yet in daily life, or in accusation of others, in detraction, or evil-speaking, people daily act, as though, suppression were no lie.
Amaziah then said to Amos, — that is, after his first proceeding disappointed him; for he did not obtain from king Jeroboam what he expected, — then Amaziah said to Amos, Seer, go, flee to the land of Judah! By saying Go, he intimates that he was at liberty to depart, as though he said, “Why wouldest thou willfully perish among us?” At the same time, the two clauses ought to be joined together. He says first, Go, and then, flee When he says Go, he reminds him, as I have already said, that if he wished, he might go away, as no one prevented his departure: “Go, then, for the way is open to you.” But when he says, flee, he means that he could not long remain safe there: “Except thou provident for thy life, it is all over with you: flee then quickly away from us, else thou art lost.” We hence see how cunningly Amaziah assailed God’s Prophet. He proposed to him an easy way of saving his life; at the same time he urged him with the fear of danger, and declared that he could not remain safe, except he immediately fled. These then were the two reasons which he used as mighty engines to depress the heart of the holy Prophet.
He afterwards subjoins, And eat there thy bread This is the third argument. He might be allowed to live in his own country, and be supplied there with sustenance; for Amos was, as we have said, one of the shepherds of Tekoa. He must then have arisen from the tribe of Judah, and he had his habitation and his relations in that kingdom. Besides, Azariah was not an ungodly king: though not one of the most perfect, he yet respected and honored the servants of God. Hence, by saying, Eat there thy bread, Amaziah means that there was a safe residence for the Prophets in the kingdom of Judah, and that they were there esteemed both by the king and by the people, and that they might live there. This is the third argument.
Now follows the fourth: “If thou dost object to me, and say that thou art a Prophet, and that it is neither lawful nor right in thee to be silent, be a prophet there. Thou knowest that prophets are attended to in the kingdom of Judah; thou mayest then perform thine office there, and live at liberty, and without fear.” We hence see four of the reasons by which Amaziah attempted to persuade the Prophet Amos to leave the people of Israel, and to go to his own kindred.
But there follows a fifth reason: But in Bethel prophesy no more; for the sanctuary of the king it is, and his court. Here Amaziah annoys the Prophet by another pretense, or he tries, at least, to shake his courage, by intimating that it was unbecoming to raise commotions in the kingdom of Israel, and also that, by so doing, he offended God, because Jeroboam was a divinely appointed king, and endued with the chief authority. Since then the king could, by his own right, institute new modes of worship, Amaziah here argues that it is not in the power of any one who pleased to pull down those rites which had been universally received, and then confirmed by a royal edict, but that they ought to be received without any dispute. We then perceive now the import of the whole.
But it must be noticed in this place, that we must be watchful, not only against the open violence and cruelty of enemies, but also against their intrigues; for as Satan is a murderer, and has been so from the beginning, so he is also the father of lies. Whosoever then wishes strenuously and constantly to spend his labors for the Church and for God, must prepare himself for a contest with both: he must resist all fears and all intrigues. We see some not so fearful, though a hundred deaths were denounced upon them, who are yet not sufficiently cautious when enemies craftily insinuate themselves. I have not, therefore, said without reason, that God’s servants have need of being fortified against both; that they ought to be prepared against the fear of death, and remain intrepid, though they must die, and that they ought to lay down their necks, if needs be, while performing their office, and to seal their doctrine with their own blood; — and that, on the other hand, their ought to be prudent; for oftentimes the enemies of the truth assail them by flatteries; and the experience of our own times sufficiently proves this. More danger, I know, has ever been from this quarter; that is, when enemies attempt to terrify by such objections as these, “What is your purpose? See, the whole world must necessarily at length be consumed by calamities. What else do you seek, but that religion should everywhere flourish, that sound learning should be valued, that peace should prevail everywhere? But we see that the fiercest war is at hand: if once it should arise, all places would be full of calamities, savage barbarity, and cruelty, would follow, and religion would perish: all this ye will effect by your pertinacity.” These things have often been said to us. When therefore we read this passage, we ought to notice the arts by which Satan has been trying to undermine the efforts of the godly, and the constancy of God’s servants.
As to the first argument, there is no need much of dwelling longer upon it; for every one can of himself perceive the design of all this crafty proceeding. He says first, Seer, go. Amaziah addresses Amos in a respectful way: he does not reproachfully call him, either an exile, or a seditious man, or one unlearned, or a cowherd, or a person unworthy of his office. He does not use any such language, but calls him a seer; he concedes to him the honorable title of a Prophet; for by the word חזה, chese, he means this “I confess thee to be God’s Prophet: I grant that thou art a Prophet, but not our Prophet; Seer, then, go.” We hence see that he left to him untouched the honor of being a Prophet, that he might more easily creep into his favor, lest by raising a dispute at first, there should be between them a violent contest: he therefore avoided all occasions of contention.
It might however have been asked him, Why he was blind? For the office of a priest was to watch; and the Prophets were in such a manner joined to the priests, that when God substituted Prophets in their place, he indirectly charged them with idleness and indifference. For why were the priests appointed? That they might be the messengers of the Lord of hosts, as it is said by Malachi, ‘The people shall seek from the mouth of the priest my law, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts,’ (Mal_2:7). Amaziah then ought especially to have performed himself the Prophet’s office, for he was a priest. He was indeed, I allow, a spurious priest; but having claimed so honorable a name, he ought to have discharged its duties: this he did note and conceded that title to the Prophet. So now our milted bishops are very liberal in conceding titles, “O, Mr. Teacher, ye can indeed see and understand many things: but yet ye ought, at the same time, to consult the peace of the community.” They call those teachers who have been invested with no public office, but are yet under the necessity of undertaking the duties of others, for they see that these milted bishops are dumb dogs. In a like manner, also, did Amaziah act towards the Prophet Amos; for he was content with his own splendor and great pomp, and with his own riches; he lived sumptuously, and enjoyed a rich booty, and superstitions well warmed his kitchen. He therefore easily surrendered to others the title of a Prophet: in the meantime, he prided himself on his priesthood.
But as to the second argument, there was a sharper sting in it, Flee, he says. By flight he intimates, that it was necessary for the Prophet to depart, though he wished to remain. So this second reason was borrowed from necessity; for the Prophet could no longer be borne with, if he proceeded in the free discharge of his office. Flee then to the land of Judah, and there eat bread
With regard to this third reason, he seems to imply that the Prophet Amos would be too pertinacious and too much wedded to his own opinion, if he preferred not to live safely and quietly in his own country, rather than to endanger his life in another land. Go then. Where would he send him? To his own country. Why? “Thou art here a foreigner, and sees thyself to be hated; why then dost thou not rather return to thine own country, where thy religion prevails?” Amaziah did not indeed address the Prophet Amos, as man of profane men do at this day, who are less like Epicureans than they are to swine and filthy dogs; for they object and say, “Thou mayest return to thine own country; why hast thou come to us?” They send us away to our own country, when they know that there is there no safe place for us. But at that time pure religion flourished in the land of Judah: hence Amaziah says, “Why dost thou not live with thy own countrymen? for there are many there who will supply thee with sustenance; the king himself will be thy friend, and the whole people will also help thee.”
As to the fourth argument, we see what a crafty sophist is the devil, Be a Prophet there Who speaks? Amaziah, who perfectly hated the temple at Jerusalem, who would have gladly with his own hands set it on fire, who would have gladly put to death all the pious priests; and yet he allows to holy Amos a free liberty to prophesy, and he allows this, because he could not immediately in an open manner stop the holy Prophet in his course: he therefore sends him away to a distance. We hence see that Satan, by various arts and means, tempts the servants of God, and has wonderful turnings and windings, and sometimes transforms himself into an angel of light, as it is said by Paul, (2Co_11:14) and in this place we have a remarkable instance of this. Is not Amaziah an angel of light, when he advises the Prophet Amos to serve God freely in his own country, and to prophesy there, and to open his mouth in defense of God’s worship and of pure religion? provided he did not do all this in the land of Israel. We have then in this chapter, as I have said, a remarkable instance of the wiliness of Satan.
Jeroboam apparently took no account of the false priest’s message. Perhaps the memory of the true prophecies of Elisha as to the successes of his father, and of Jonah as to his own, fulfilled in his own person and still recent, inspired him with a reverence for God’s prophets. To know his motive or motives, we must know his whole character, which we do not. Amaziah, failing of his purpose, uses his name as far as he dares. “Seer, go flee thee.” He probably uses the old title for a prophet, in reference to the visions which he had just related. Perhaps, he used it in irony also . “Thou who seest, as thou deemest, what others see not, “visionary! visionist!” flee thee,” that is, for thy good; (he acts the patron and the counselor;) “to the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and there prophesy.” Worldly people always think that those whose profession is religious make “a gain of godliness.” “He is paid for it,” they say. “Whose bread I eat, his song I sing.” Interested people cannot conceive of one disinterested; nor the worldly, of one unworldly; nor the insincere, of one sincere. Amaziah thought then that Amos, coming out of Judah, must he speaking in the interests of Judah; perhaps, that he was in the pay of her king. Anyhow, prophecies, such as his against Israel, would be acceptable there and be well paid. The words are courteous, like so much patronizing language now, as to God or His revelation, His prophets or His Apostles, or His divine word. The words are measured: the meaning blasphemy. Perhaps, like the Scribes and Pharisees afterward, “he feared the people” Mat_21:26; Act_5:26. : “Seeing that there were many among the people who beard him gladly, he dared not do him any open wrong, lest he should offend them.”
Now as to the fifth argument, it is especially needful to dwell on it. In Bethel, he says, add no more to prophesy, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is the house of the kingdom Here only Amaziah shows what he wished, even to retain possession of his priesthood; which he could not have done without banishing the Prophet: for he could not contend with him in arguments. He consulted then his own advantage by getting rid of the Prophet. Whatever various characters therefore he assumed in the last verse, and notwithstanding the many coverings by which he concealed himself, the ape now, as they say, appears as the ape. Amaziah then shows what he had in views even that he might remain quiet in the possession of his own tyrannical powers and that Amos should no more molest him, and pull up by the roots the prevailing superstitions: for Amaziah was a priest, and Amos could not perform his office without crying out daily against the temple of Bethel; for it was a brothel, inasmuch as God was there robbed of his own honor; and we also know that superstitions are everywhere compared to fornication. Amaziah then now betrays his wicked intention, In Bethel prophesy not; he would retain his quiet state, and wished not the word of God to be heard there. His desire was, as we have already said, to extinguish everywhere the light of heavenly truth; but as he could not do this, he wished to continue at least in his own station without any disputes, as we see the case to be in our time with the Pope and his milted bishops. They became quite mad when they heard that many cities and some princes made commotions in Germany, and departed from their submission to them; but as they could not subdue them by force, they said, “Let us leave to themselves these barbarians; why, more evil than good has hitherto proceeded from them; it is a barren and dry country: provided we have Spain, France, and Italy, secured to us, we have enough; for we have probably lost more than what we have gained by Germany. Let them then have their liberty, or rather licentiousness; they will again some time return, and come under our authority: let us not in the meantime be over-anxious about them. But let not this contagion penetrate into France, for one of our arms has been already cut off; nor let Spain nor Italy be touched by it; for this would be to aim at our life.” Such also was this Amaziah, as it evidently appears, — Prophesy not then in Bethel.
And he spoke cunningly when he said, Add no more to prophecy; for it was the same as though he pardoned him. “See, though thou hast hitherto been offending the king and the common feeling of the people, I will not yet treat you with strict justice, I will forgive thee all, let what thou hast done amiss remain buried, provided thou ‘addest no more’ in future.” We hence see that there is emphasis in the expression, when he says, Proceed not, or, add not; as though he had said, that he would not inquire into the past, nor would accuse Amos of having been seditious: provided he abstained for the future, Amaziah was satisfied, as we may gather from his words, Add then no more to prophesy.
And why? Because it is the king’s sanctuary This was one thing. Amaziah wished here to prove by the king’s authority that the received worship at Bethel was legitimate. How so? “The king has established it; it is not then lawful for any one to say a word to the contrary; the king could do this by his own right; for his majesty is sacred.” We see the object in view. And how many are there at this day under the Papacy, who accumulate on kings all the authority and power they can, in order that no dispute may be made about religion; but power is to be vested in one king to determine according to his own will whatever he pleases, and this is to remain fixed without any dispute. They who at first extolled Henry, King of England, were certainly inconsiderate men; they gave him the supreme power in all things: and this always vexed me grievously; for they were guilty of blasphemy (erant blasphemi ) when they called him the chief Head of the Church under Christ. This was certainly too much: but it ought however to remain buried, as they sinned through inconsiderate zeal. But when that impostor, who afterwards became the chancellor of that Proserpina, who, at this day, surpasses all devils in that kingdom — when he was at Ratisbon, he contended not by using any reasons, (I speak of the last chancellor, who was the Bishop of Winchester,) and as I have just said, he cared not much about the testimonies of Scripture, but said that it was in the power of the king to abrogate statutes and to institute new rites, — that as to fasting, the king could forbid or command the people to eat flesh on this or that days that it was lawful for the king to prohibit priests from marrying, that it was lawful for the king to interdict to the people the use of the cup in the Supper, that it was lawful for the king to appoint this or that thing in his own kingdom. How so? because supreme power is vested in the king. The same was the gloss of this Amaziah of whom the Prophet now speaks: It is the sanctuary of the king.
But he adds afterwards a second thing, It is the house of the kingdom These words of Amaziah ought to be well considered. He says first, It is the king’s sanctuary, and then, It is the house of the kingdom. Hence he ascribes to the king a twofold office, — that it was in his power to change religion in any way he pleased, — and then, that Amos disturbed the peace of the community, and thus did wrong to the king by derogating from his authority. With regard to the first clause, it is indeed certain that kings, when they rightly discharge their duty, become patrons of religion and supporters (nutricios — nursers) of the Church, as Isaiah calls them, (Isa_49:23) What then is chiefly required of kings, is this — to use the swords with which they are invested, to render free (asserendum ) the worship of God. But still they are inconsiderate men, who give them too much power in spiritual things; (qui faciunt illos nimis spirituales —who make them too spiritual) and this evil is everywhere dominant in Germany; and in these regions it prevails too much. And we now find what fruit is produced by this root, which is this, — that princes, and those who are in power, think themselves so spiritual, that there is no longer any church discipline; and this sacrilege greatly prevails among us; for they limit not their office by fixed and legitimate boundaries, but think that they cannot rule, except they abolish every authority in the Church and become chief judges as well in doctrine as in all spiritual government. The devil then suggested at that time this sentiment to Amaziah, — that the king appointed the temple: hence, since it was the king’s sanctuary, it was not lawful for a private man, it was not even lawful for any one, to deny that religion to be of authority, which had been once approved of, and pleased the king. And princes listen to a sweet song, when impostors lead them astray; and they desire nothing more than that all things without any difference or distinction should be referred to themselves. They then gladly interfere, and at first show some zeal, but mere ambition impels them, as they so carefully appropriate every thing to themselves. Moderation ought then to be observed; for this evil has ever been dominant in princes — to wish to change religion according to their will and fancy, and at the same time for their own advantage; for they regard what is of advantage to themselves, as they are not for the most part guided by the Spirit of God, but impelled by their own ambition. Since then we see that Satan by these hidden arts formerly contended against God’s prophets, we ought to bewail and lament our own courses. But whosoever desires to conduct himself as it behaves him, let him watch against this evil.
It now follows, And it is the house of the kingdom Amaziah contends here no more for the royal prerogative, with regard to spiritual power. “Be it, that the king ought not to have appointed new worship, thou hast yet offended against the peace of the community.” The greater part of the princes at this day seek nothing so much as that they might enjoy their own quietness. They ever declare that they would he courageous enough even to death in the defense of their first confession; but yet what are the teachers they seek for themselves? Even those who avoid the cross and who, to gratify the Papists, or to render them at least somewhat milder, change according to their wishes: for we see at this day that the minds of princes are inflamed by these fanners, not to spare the sacramentarians, nor allow to be called into question what is asserted, not less grossly than foolishly and falsely, respecting the presence of Christ’s body, or his body being included under the bread. “When we show that we contend against them, and that we are separated from them, nay, that we will be their mortal enemies, we in this agree with the Papists; there will then be some access to them, at least their great fury will cease, the Papists will become gentle: they will no more be so incensed against us; we shall hereafter obtain some middle course.” So things are at this day carried on in the world; and nothing is more useful than to compare the state of our time with this example of the Prophet, so that we may go on in our works employing the same weapons with which he contended and not be moved by these diabolical arts; for we have no enemies more hostile and open than these domestic traitors.
It is then the house of the kingdom He now speaks of the secular arm, as they say, and shows that though religion were to perish a hundred times, yet care was to be taken, lest Amos should pull up by the roots the kingdom of Jeroboam, and the customs of the people. It now follows —
Jamieson, Fausset & Brown
prophesy not again — (Amo_2:12).
at Beth-el — Amaziah wants to be let alone at least in his own residence.
the king’s chapel — Beth-el was preferred by the king to Dan, the other seat of the calf-worship, as being nearer Samaria, the capital, and as hallowed by Jacob of old (Gen_28:16, Gen_28:19; Gen_35:6, Gen_35:7). He argues by implication against Amos’ presumption, as a private man, in speaking against the worship sanctioned by the king, and that in the very place consecrated to it for the king’s own devotions.
king’s court — that is, residence: the seat of empire, where the king holds his court, and which thou oughtest to have reverenced. Samaria was the usual king’s residence: but for the convenience of attending the calf-worship, a royal palace was at Beth-el also.
It is the king’s chapel – Better, as in the English margin, “sanctuary.” It is the name for “the sanctuary” of God. “Let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them” Exo_25:8. “Ye shall reverence My sanctuary: I am the Lord” Lev_19:30; Lev_26:2. It is most often spoken of as, “The sanctuary” ; elsewhere, but always with emphasis, of reverence, sanctity, devotion, protection, it is called “His sanctuary; My sanctuary; Thy sanctuary; the sanctuary of the Lord of God, of his God ; whence God Himself is called “a sanctuary” Isa_8:14; Eze_11:16, as a place of refuge. In three places only, is it called the sanctuary of Israel; “her sanctuary.” God, in His threat to cast them off, says, “I will bring your sanctuaries to desolation” Lev_26:31; Jeremiah laments, “the pagan have entered into her sanctuary” Lam_1:10; he says, “the place of our sanctuary is a glorious high throne from the beginning” Jer_17:12, inasmuch as God was enthroned there.
In this case too it is “the sanctuary for” Israel, not a mere property of Israel. “The sanctuary of God” could not he called the sanctuary of any man. One man could not so appropriate “the sanctuary.” God had ordained it for Himself. His presence had sanctified it. Heresy, in unconsciousness, lets out more truth than it means. A high priest at Jerusalem could not have said this. He knew that “the temple” was the “sanctuary” of God, and could not have called it the “king’s sanctuary.” The sanctuary at Bethel had no other sanction, than what it had from the king. Jeroboam I consecrated it and its priests 1Ki_12:31-33; and from him it and they had their authority. Amaziah wished to use a popular plea to rid himself of Amos. Bethel was “the king’s sanctuary and the house,” not of God, but “of the kingdom,” that is, “the house,” which had the whole royal sanction, which with its Worship was the creature of royal authority, bound up in one with the kingdom, and belonging to it.
Or it may be, “a royal house,” (not a palace, or court, for the king’s palace was at Samaria, but) “a royal temple,” the state-Church. So the Arians betrayed their worldliness by dating one of their Creeds from the Roman Consuls of the year, its month and day” , thereby to show all thinking people, that their faith dates, not of old but now.” Their faith was of yesterday. “They are accustomed to say,” says Jerome, “the Emperor communicates with us, and, if anyone resists them, immediately they calumniate. ‘Actest thou against the Emperor? Despisest thou the Emperor’s mandate?’ And yet we may think, that many Christian kings who have persecuted the Church of God, and essayed to establish the Arian impiety in the whole world, surpass in guilt Jeroboam king of Israel. He despised the message of a false priest, nor would he make any answer to his suggestions. But these, with their many Amaziah priests, have slain Amos the prophet and the priest of the Lord by hunger and penury, dungeons and exile.”
Amos 7:12–13. Jeroboam apparently took no account of the priest’s message. Accordingly Amaziah himself endeavours to induce Amos to leave the country.
O thou seer] or gazer (ḥōzeh, not rō’eh, ‘seer,’ 1 Sam. 9:9, though a synonym of it; see Is. 30:10, quoted on 1:1). Rō’eh is used in 1 Sam. 9:9, 11, 18, 19 of Samuel, and we are told in v. 9 that it was the oldest designation of the prophet; but it occurs elsewhere only in 1 Chr. 9:22, 26:28, 29:29 (each time as an epithet of Samuel); 2 Chr. 16:7, 10 (of Hanani); and in the plural, Is. 30:10. Ḥōzeh is used of Gad, 2 Sam. 24:11 = 1 Chr. 21:9 (‘David’s ḥōzeh’); 2 Chr. 29:25 (‘the king’s ḥōzeh’); Heman, 1 Chr. 25:5 (‘the king’s ḥōzeh’); Iddo, 2 Chr. 9:29, 12:15; Jehu, son of Hanani, 19:2; Asaph, 29:30; Jeduthun, 30:15; and in the plural, Is. 29:10 (|| prophets), 30:10 (|| rō’īm); Mic. 3:7 (|| diviners); 2 Chr. 33:18, and (prob.) 19. Both words are thus rare in the pre-exilic literature, rō’eh being applied as a title only to Samuel, and ḥōzeh only to Gad: their revival in the late Chronicles is remarkable. Here ḥōzeh is used probably on account of the visions, which Amos had just related, perhaps also with a touch of irony, as though implying that he was (as we might say) a “visionary,” and anticipated evils which were in reality imaginary.
into the land of Judah] Amos may be at liberty to say what he pleases in his own country: predictions of Israel’s fall might not be unacceptable there; let him not utter them in Jeroboam’s capital.
eat bread] i.e. make thy living. Amaziah implies that prophecy was a trade or profession. Already in early times we know that those who consulted a rō’eh paid a fee for his advice (1 Sam. 9:7, 8); and in the middle period of the monarchy there are allusions to the fact that the prophets who echoed the sentiments of the people gained popularity, and were rewarded accordingly: see Is. 30:10 (Isaiah’s political teaching was obnoxious to the people, and they would not listen to him: they wished for ‘seers’ who would “see” for them “smooth things,” i.e. visions of material prosperity, the success of their own plans, &c.); Mic. 3:5 (the prophets who “bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace; and whoso putteth not into their mouths, they prepare war against him”; i.e. who prophesy in accordance with the fee that they receive), 11 (“the prophets thereof divine for money”); Ez. 13:19. Comp. also 1 Ki. 22:13; Jer. 23:16, 17, 28:1–4, 29:8 f. The genuine prophets were, of course, superior to all such considerations; they rebuked the people, when they deserved it, for their sins, and they uttered predictions which they felt to be true, heedless of the temper in which they might be received by those who heard them. But Amaziah insinuates that Amos is one of those prophets who lived upon popularity: he bids him, therefore, ironically, betake himself to Judah, where his words spoken against Ephraim will be listened to with satisfaction, and will not remain unrewarded. Baur quotes the German proverb, “Wess Brod ich ess’, dess Lied ich sing.”
13. for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a national temple] Lit. the temple of the kingdom. Beth-el was the principal sanctuary of the northern kingdom, under the special patronage and support of the king.
The Prophet Amos first pleads for himself, that he was not at liberty to obey the counsel of Amaziah, because he could not renounce a calling to which he was appointed. As then he had been sent by God, he proves that he was bound by necessity to prophesy in the land of Israel. In the first place, he indeed modestly says, that he was not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet: why did he say this? To render himself contemptible? By no means, though the words apparently have this tendency; but it was to gain for himself more authority; for his extraordinary call gave him greater weight than if he had been brought up from his childhood in the schools of the prophets. He then shows that he became a prophet by a miraculous interposition, and that the office was not committed to him by human authority, and in the usual way; but that he had been led to it as it were by force, so that he could not cast aside the office of teaching, without openly shaking off the yoke laid upon him by God.
This account then which Amos gives of himself ought to be noticed, I was not a Prophet, nor the son of a Prophet Had he said simply that he was not a Prophet, he might have been accused of presumption: how so? No one takes to himself this honor in the Church of God; a call is necessary; Were an angel to descend from heaven, he ought not to subvert public order; (Gal_1:8) for all things, as Paul reminds us, ought to be done decently and in lawful order in the Church; for the God of peace presides over us. Had Amos then positively denied that he was a Prophet, he might on this account have been thrust away from his office of teaching, for he wanted a call. But he means that he was not a Prophet who had been from his childhood instructed in God’s law, to be an interpreter of Scripture: and for the same reason he says that he was not the son of a Prophet; for there were then, we know, colleges for Prophets; and this is sufficiently evident from sacred history. As then these colleges were instituted for this end — that there might be always seminaries for the Church of God, so that it might not be destitute of good and faithful teachers, Amos says that he was not of that class. He indeed honestly confesses that he was an illiterate man: but by this as I have already said, he gained to himself more authority inasmuch as the Lord had seized on him as it were by force, and set him over the people to teach them: “See, thou shalt be my Prophet, and though thou hast not been taught from thy youth for this office, I will yet in an instant make thee a Prophet.” It was a greater miracle, that Christ chose rude and ignorant men as his apostles, than if he had at first chosen Paul or men like him who were skillful in the law. If then Christ had at the beginning selected such disciples, their authority would have appeared less: but as he had prepared by his Spirit those who were before unlearned, it appeared more evident that they were sent from above. And to this refers the expression the Prophet uses, when he says, Jehovah took me away: for it intimates that his calls as we have said, was extraordinary. The rest we shall defer till to-morrow.
Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah,…. With much freedom, boldness, and intrepidity, and yet with modesty and humility; not at all moved by his frowns or his flattery:
I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son: he was not a prophet originally, or from his youth, as Kimchi; he was not born and bred one; neither his father was a prophet, by whom he could get any instructions in the mystery of prophesying; nor was he a disciple of any of the prophets, or brought up in any of their schools as some were; he was no prophet till the Lord called him immediately, at once, from his secular employment to this office; and therefore did not take it up to get a livelihood by Jarchi and Aben Ezra interpret it, that he was not one of the false prophets that prophesied for hire, and took a reward:
but I was an herdsman, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit; that is, originally: this was the employment he was brought up in from his youth, and was in it when he was called to be a prophet; he looked after cattle, both great and small; and at a certain time of the year used, to gather sycamore fruit, which was a kind of figs; and by, its name had the resemblance both of figs and mulberries. Some take it to be what were called Egyptian figs; these he gathered, either for the use of his masters, or for food for himself, or for the cattle, or both: or he was an “opener” of them, as the Septuagint; he cut, them, and made incisions in them; for, as Pliny, Dioscorides , and Theophrastus observe, this fruit must be cut or scratched, either with the nail, or with iron, or it will not ripen; but, four days after being scratched or cut, will become ripe. Mr. Norden, a late traveller in Egypt, has given us a very particular account of this tree and its fruit.
“This sycamore (he says) is of the height of a beech, and bears its fruit in a manner quite different from other trees; it has them on the trunk itself, which shoots out little sprigs in form of grape stalks; at the end of which grow the fruit close to one another, almost like bunches of grapes. The tree is always green, and bears fruit several times in the year, without observing any certain seasons: for I have seen (says he) some sycamores that have given fruit two months after others. The fruit has the figure and smell of real figs, but is inferior to them in the taste, having a disgusting sweetness. Its colour is a yellow, inclining to an ochre, shadowed by a flesh colour. In the inside it resembles the common figs, excepting that it has a blackish colouring with yellow spots. This sort of tree is pretty common in Egypt; the people for the greater part live upon its fruit, and think themselves well regaled when they have a piece of bread, a couple of sycamore figs, and a pitcher filled with water from the Nile.”
This account in several things agrees with what Pliny and Solinus relate of this tree and its fruit; very likely there might be many of these trees in Judea; there seem to have been great numbers of them in Solomon’s time, 1Ki_10:27; and perhaps it was one of these that Zacchaeus climbed, in order to see Christ, Luk_19:4; for this sort of trees delight in vales and plains, such as were the plains of Jericho; and in the Talmud we read of sycamore trees in Jericho; and of the men of Jericho allowing the branches of them to be cut down for sacred uses. These also grew in lower Galilee, but not in upper Galilee; and that they were frequent in the land of Israel appears from the rules the Misnic doctors give about the planting, and cutting them down; and in the opening of these trees, and making incisions in them, and in gathering the fruit of them, Amos might be concerned. Kimchi and Ben Melech say the word signifies to “mix”, and that his business was to mix these together with other fruit. Aben Ezra observes, that in the Arabic language it signifies to dry; and then his work was, after he had gathered them, to lay them a drying. Some render the word a “searcher” of them; as if his employment was to look out for them, and seek them where they were to be got: however, be this as it will, the prophet suggests that he had been used to a low life, and to mean fare, with which he was contented, and did not take up this business of prophesying for bread, and could return to his former employment without any regret, to get a maintenance, if so was the will of God. The Targum gives it a different sense,”for I am a master of cattle, and have sycamores in the fields;” and so Jarchi, Kimchi, and Ben Melech, represent him as suggesting that he was rich, and had no need of bread to be given him, or to prophesy for that.
Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown
I was no prophet — in answer to Amaziah’s insinuation (Amo_7:12), that he discharged the prophetical office to earn his “bread” (like Israel’s mercenary prophets). So far from being rewarded, Jehovah’s prophets had to expect imprisonment and even death as the result of their prophesying in Samaria or Israel: whereas the prophets of Baal were maintained at the king’s expense (compare 1Ki_18:19). I was not, says Amos, of the order of prophets, or educated in their schools, and deriving a livelihood from exercising the public functions of a prophet. I am a shepherd (compare Amo_7:15, “flock”; the Hebrew for “herdsman” includes the meaning, shepherd, compare Amo_1:1) in humble position, who did not even think of prophesying among you, until a divine call impelled me to it.
prophet’s son — that is, disciple. Schools of prophets are mentioned first in First Samuel; in these youths were educated to serve the theocracy as public instructors. Only in the kingdom of the ten tribes is the continuance of the schools of the prophets mentioned. They were missionary stations near the chief seats of superstition in Israel, and associations endowed with the Spirit of God; none were admitted but those to whom the Spirit had been previously imparted. Their spiritual fathers traveled about to visit the training schools, and cared for the members and even their widows (2Ki_4:1, 2Ki_4:2). The pupils had their common board in them, and after leaving them still continued members. The offerings which in Judah were given by the pious to the Levites, in Israel went to the schools of the prophets (2Ki_4:42). Prophecy (for example, Elijah and Elisha) in Israel was more connected with extraordinary events than in Judah, inasmuch as, in the absence of the legal hierarchy of the latter, it needed to have more palpable divine sanction.
sycamore — abounding in Palestine. The fruit was like the fig, but inferior; according to Pliny, a sort of compound, as the name expresses, of the fig and the mulberry. It was only eaten by the poorest (compare 1Ki_10:27).
gatherer — one occupied with their cultivation [Maurer]. To cultivate it, an incision was made in the fruit when of a certain size, and on the fourth day afterwards it ripened [Pliny, Natural History, 13.7, 14]. Grotius from Jerome says, if it be not plucked off and “gathered” (which favors English Version), it is spoiled by gnats.
Cambridge Bible Driver
I was no prophet, and I was no prophet’s son] i.e. not one of the “sons of the prophets,” as the companies, or guilds, of prophets, at Beth-el, Gilgal, and other places, are called in the Book of Kings (1 Ki. 20:35; 2 Ki. 2:3, 5, 7, 15, 4:1, 38, 5:22, 6:1, 9:1). In Semitic languages ‘son’ is often used in the figurative sense of belonging to: thus in Syriac bar naggārê, ‘a son of the carpenters,’ means a member of a carpenters’ guild. Amos disclaims being a prophet by trade or profession, who might, for instance, have adopted his vocation without any special fitness, or inward call, or who might have even prosecuted it solely with a view to the material advantages accruing from it: no motives such as these had actuated him; he was a simple herdsman, and cultivator of sycomore trees; and he was following the flock, at the moment when the summons came, bidding him be a prophet to Jehovah’s people.
an herdman] Lit. a cow- (or ox-) herd; but it is very possible, especially in view of the next verse (“from following the flock”), that bōḳēr (בקר) is here an error for nōḳēd (נקד), the rare word used in 1:1 to describe Amos as a keeper of the peculiar breed of sheep called naḳad.
and a dresser (R.V.) of sycomores] The sycomore (or “fig-mulberry”)—not our tree of the same name—was a common (Is. 9:10; 1 Ki. 10:27), but useful tree, which grew abundantly in the mild climate of the Shephēlāh, or Maritime Plain (1 Ki. l.c.; 1 Chr. 27:28), as it does still in that of the deep Jordan valley: in Egypt, where it also grew (Ps. 78:47), and where it is found still, its wood was used for doors, boxes, coffins, and articles of furniture (Wilkinson-Birch, Anc. Eg., ii. 416). It attains the size of a walnut-tree, has wide-spreading branches, and, on account of its shade, is often planted by the way-side (cf. Luke 19:4). The fruit grows, not on the branches, but on little sprigs rising directly out of the stem, and in clusters like the grape (see the representation in the Dict. of the Bible, s.v.): it is something like a small fig, in shape and size, but insipid and woody in taste. The fruit is infested with an insect (the Sycophaga crassipes), and till the ‘eye’ or top has been punctured, so that the insects may escape, it is not eatable. This operation, it is probable, is what is here alluded to. Bōlēs is a verb derived from balas, which in Ethiopic means a fig, or (sometimes) a sycomore (see Dillmann’s Lex. Aeth., col. 487), and in Arabic denotes a species of fig; in Hebrew, it may be inferred that it denoted the similarly shaped fruit of the sycomore, and the derived verb will have signified to deal with, handle, or dress the fruit of the sycomore. The LXX. having no doubt in view the method of rendering the fruit edible, referred to above, render by κνίζων, pricking or nipping (hence Vulg. vellicans).
Tekoa is however much too cold for sycomores to have ever grown there: the tree is not found in Syria above 1000 ft. above the sea, and Tekoa is more than twice as high as that. We must suppose the “naḳad-keepers of Tekoa” (1:1) to have owned lands in the ‘wilderness’ or pasture-ground, stretching down to the Dead Sea on the east (above, p. 126); and here, in some sufficiently sheltered situation, must have grown the sycomore-trees, which the prophet ‘dressed.’
Amos having shown that he must obey God, who had committed to him the office of teaching, now turns his discourse to Amaziah, and points out what he would gain by his insolence in daring to forbid a Prophet, an ambassador of the God of heaven, to proclaim what he had in command. As, then, Amaziah had proceeded into such a degree of rashness or rather of madness Amos now assails him and says, Hear then now the word of Jehovah He sets here the word or the decree of God in opposition to the prohibition of Amaziah: for the ungodly priest had forbidden God’s servant to proclaim his words any more in the land of Israel: “Who art thou? Thou indeed thus speakest; but God will also speak in his turn.” He shows, at the same time, the difference between the speech of Amaziah and the word of God: the impostor had indeed attempted to terrify the holy man so as to makehim to desist from his office, though the attempt was vain; but Amos shows that God’s word would not be without effect: “Whether I hold my peace or speak,” he seems to say, “this vengeance is suspended over thee.” But he, at the same time, connects God’s vengeance with his doctrine; for this was also necessary, that the ungodly priest might know that he gained nothing else, by attempting to do everything, than that he had doubly increased the vengeance of God.
There is, therefore, great emphasis in these words, Now hear the word of Jehovah thou who sayest, Prophesy not. Amaziah was indeed worthy of being destroyed by God a hundred times, together with all his offspring: but Amos intimates that God’s wrath was especially kindled by this madness, — that Amaziah dared to put a restraint on God, and to forbid his Spirit freely to reprove the sins of the whole people. Since, then, he proceeded so far, Amos shows that he would have justly to suffer the punishment due to his presumption, yea, to his furious and sacrilegious audacity, inasmuch as he set himself up against God, and sought to take from him his supreme authority, for nothing belongs more peculiarly to God than the office of judging the world; and this he does by his word and his Prophets. As, then, Amaziah had attempted to rob God of his own right and authority, the Prophet shows that vengeance had been thereby increased: Thou then, who sayest, Prophesy not against Israel, and speak not, hear the word of Jehovah
Remarkable is this passage, and from it we learn that nothing is better for us, when God rebukes us, than to descend into our own consciences, and to submit to the sentence which proceeds from his mouth, and humbly to entreat pardon as soon as he condemns us: for if we be refractory, God will not cease to speak, though we a hundred times forbid him; he will therefore go on notwithstanding our unwillingness. Further, we may vomit forth many blasphemies; but what can our clamorous words do? The Lord will, at the same time, speak with effect; he will not scatter his threatening in the air, but will really fulfill what proceeds from his mouth; and for this reason Paul compares heavenly truth to a sword, for vengeance is prepared for despisers. We ought therefore to take notice of this in the Prophet’s words, — that when profane men attempt to repel every tenth and all threatening, they gain nothing by their perverseness; for the lord will exercise his own right; and he will also join to his word, as they say, its execution. Thou then who sayest, Prophesy not, hear the word of Jehovah; though thou mayest growl, yet God will not be hindered by these thy commands; but he will ever continue complete in his own authority.” And he mentions word, as we have already said, to show that the truth, with which the ungodly contend, is connected with the power of God. God might indeed destroy all the unbelieving in silence, without uttering his voice; but he will have his Word honored, that the ungodly may know that they contend in vain, while they vomit forth their rage against his word, for they will at length find that in his word is included their condemnation.
Now, when he says, Prophecy not against Israel, and speak not against the house of Isaac, we may learn again from these words, that the word Isaac is used by the Prophet by way of concession; for the people of Israel were then wont to adduce the example of this holy patriarch. Thus superstitious men, neglecting the law of God, the common rule, ever turn aside to the examples of the saints; and they do this without any discrimination; nay, as their minds are perverted, when anything has been wrongfully done by the fathers, they instantly lay hold on it: and then, when there is anything peculiar, which God had approved in the fathers but wished not to be drawn, as they commonly say, into a precedent, the superstitious think that they have the best reason in their favor, when they can set up such a shield against God. As, then, the Israelites had at that time the name of their father Isaac in their mouths while they were foolishly worshipping God in Bethel and in other places, contrary to what the law prescribed, the Prophet Amos designedly repeats here again the name of Isaac, expressing it probably in imitation of what had been said by Amaziah.
Now follows a denunciation, Therefore thus saith Jehovah This לכן, lacen, therefore, shows that Amaziah suffered punishment, not only because he had corrupted God’s worship, because he had deceived the people by his impostures and because he had made gain by the disguise of religion; but because he had insolently dared to oppose the authority of God, and to turn aside the Prophet from his office, both by hidden crafts and by open violence. Inasmuch then as he had attempted to do this, Amos now declares that punishment awaited him. We hence see that destruction is doubly increased, when we set up a hard and iron neck against God, who would have us to be pliant, and when he reproves us, requires from us at least this modesty — that we confess that we have sinned. But when we evade, or when we proceed still outward, this issue will at last follow — that God will execute double vengeance on account of our obstinacy. Therefore then Jehovah saith: and O! that this were deeply engraven on the hearts of men; there would not then be so much rebellion at this day prevailing in the world. But we see how daring men are; for as soon as the Lord severely reproves them, they murmur; and then, if they have any authority they stretch every nerve to take away from God his own rights, and from his servants their liberty. At the same time, when we observe the ungodly to be so blind, that they perceive not the vengeance, such as the Prophet here denounces, to be nigh them, and dread it not, it behooves us duly to weigh what the Prophet here declares and that is, that perverse men, as I have already said, do gain this only by their obstinacy — that they more and more inflame God’s displeasure.
With respect to the kind of punishment he was to suffer, it is said, Thy wife in the city shall be wanton: it is so literally; but the Prophet speaks not here of voluntary wantonness. He then intimates that Amaziah could not escape punishment, but that his wife would be made a prostitute, when the enemies occupied the land of Israel. We indeed know that it was a common thing for conquerors to abuse women: and well would it be, were the practice abolished at this day. Besides, it was deemed lawful in that age for the conqueror to take to himself not only the daughter but also the wife of another. This then is the reason why the Prophet says, Thy wife shall be a prostitute. But he says, in the city; which was far more grievous, than if the wife of Amaziah had been led to a distance, and suffered that reproach in an unknown country: it would have less wounded the mind of Amaziah, if the enemies had taken away his wife, and this disgrace had continued unknown to him, it being done in a distant land. But when his wife was publicly and before the eyes of all constrained to submit to this baseness and turpitude, it was much more hard to be endured, and occasioned much greater grief. We hence see that the punishment was much increased by this circumstance, which the Prophet states when he says, Thy wife shall in the city be a prostitute.
Then it follows, Thy sons and thy daughters shall by the sword fall It is a second punishment, when he declares, that the sons and also the daughters of the ungodly priest would be slain by the enemies. It was indeed probable, that some also of the common people had suffered the same evils; but God no doubt punished the willfulness and madness of Amaziah for having dared to resist admonitions as well as threatening.
But he also adds, Thy land shall be divided by a line He means by this statement, that there should be none to succeed Amaziah; but that whatever land he possessed should become a prey to the enemies. Thy land then shall be divided by a line. It may at the same time be, that Amos speaks here generally of the land of Israel; and this seems to me probable. I indeed allow that neither by Amaziah nor by the other priests was the law of God kept; but we yet know that there was some affinity between the lawful priesthood, and the spurious priesthood which the first Jeroboam had introduced. Hence I conjecture that Amaziah had no possessions, it being lawful for priests to have only gardens and pastures for their cattle; but they cultivated no lands. I am therefore disposed to extend to the whole people what is said of the land of one man; and this opinion is confirmed by what immediately follows.
But thou shalt die in a polluted land. He called that the land of Amaziah in which he and the rest of the people dwelt; but he calls the land into which he, with all the rest, were to be driven, a polluted land. If any one objects and says that this punishment did not apply to one man, the ready answer is this, — that God meant that an especial mark should be imprinted on his common judgment, that Amaziah might know, that he had as it were accelerated God’s vengeance, which yet he intended to turn aside, when he sent away, as we have seen, the Prophet Amos into the land of Judah.
It follows at last, Israel by migrating shall migrate from his own land We here see that the Prophet proclaimed no private threatening, either to Amaziah himself or to his wife or to his children, but extended his discourse to the whole people: the fact at the same time remains unchanged that God intended to punish the perverseness of that ungodly man, while executing his vengeance on the whole people. Now follows —
Therefore thus saith the Lord,…. For withstanding the prophet of the Lord, and forbidding him to speak in his name against the idolatry of Israel, as well as for his own idolatry:
thy wife shall be an harlot in the city: either of Bethel or Samaria; either through force, being ravished by the soldiers upon taking and plundering the city; so Theodoret and others: or rather of choice; either, through poverty, to get bread, or through a vicious inclination, and that in a public manner: the meaning is, that she should be a common strumpet; which must be a great affliction to him, and a just punishment for his idolatry, or spiritual adultery; this must be before the siege and taking of Samaria, since by that time the priest’s wife would be too old to be used as a harlot:
and thy sons and thy daughters shall fall by the sword; either of Shallum, who smote Zachariah the son of Jeroboam with the sword, before the people, and very probably many of his friends with him, among whom this family was; or of Menahem, who slew Shallum, and destroyed many places that opened not to him, with their inhabitants, and ripped up the women with child; or in the after invasions by Pul, Tiglathpileser, and Shalmaneser, 2Ki_15:10;
and thy land shall be divided by line; either the whole land of Israel be lived in, or the land that was in the possession of this priest, and was his own property; this should be measured with a line, and be parted among foreigners, that should invade the land, and subdue it; a just punishment of the sins he had been guilty of, in getting large possessions in an ill manner:
and thou shall die in a polluted land; not in his own land, reckoned holy, but in a Heathen land, which was accounted defiled, because the inhabitants of it were uncircumcised and idolaters, and he was no better; perhaps the land of Assyria, whither he might with others be carried captive; or some other land he was forced to flee into:
and Israel shall surely go into captivity forth of his land; as he had before prophesied, and here confirms it; and which was fulfilled in the times of Hoshea king of Israel, by Shalmaneser king of Assyria, 2Ki_17:6.
Thy wife shall be a harlot – These were, and still are, among the horrors of war. His own sentence comes last, when he had seen the rest, unable to hinder it. Against his and her own will, she should suffer this. Jerome: “Great is the grief, and incredible the disgrace, when the husband, in the midst of the city and in the presence of all, cannot hinder the wrong done to his wife , for the husband had rather hear that his wife had been slain, than defiled.” What he adds “thy daughters” (as well as his “sons”) “shall fall by the sword,” is an unwonted barbarity, and not part of the Assyrian customs, who carried off women in great numbers, as wives for their soldiery .
Perhaps Amos mentions the unwonted cruelty, that the event might bring home the more to the minds of the people the prophecies which relate to themselves. When this had been fulfilled before his eyes , “Amaziah himself, who now gloried in the authority of the priesthood, was to be led into captivity, die in a land polluted by idols, yet not before be saw the people whom he had deceived, enslaved and captive.” Amos closes by repeating emphatically the exact words, which Amaziah had alleged in his message to Jeroboam; “and Israel shall surely go into captivity forth of his land.” He had not said it before in these precise words. Now he says it, without reserve of their repentance, as though he would say, “Thou hast pronounced thine own sentence; thou hast hardened thyself against the word of God; thou hardenest thy people against the word of God; it remains then that it should fall on thee and thy people.” Rup.: “How and when the prophecy against Amaziah was fulfilled, Scripture does not relate. He lies hid amid the mass of miseries” . Scripture hath no leisure to relate all which befalls those of the viler sort “The majesty of Holy Scripture does not lower itself to linger on baser persons, whom God had rejected.
Cambridge Bible Driver
Amos 7:17. Thy wife shall be a harlot &c.] As before (6:8), the vision of a captured city rises before him: Amaziah’s wife will be treated as a harlot by the victorious conquerors (cf. Is. 13:16; Zech. 14:2); his children, daughters as well as sons, will perish by the sword; his lands will be distributed to new occupants; he himself will die in a foreign land; finally, Israel itself will go into exile. “In the city heightens the disgrace for the principal lady in the place” (Wellh.).
divided by (measuring-)line] Cf. Mic. 2:4 (end); Jer. 6:12; and see 2 Ki. 17:24.
in an unclean land] A foreign land is regarded as ‘unclean,’ because Jehovah could not be properly worshipped in it (cf. 1 Sam. 26:19 end): no presence of Jehovah sanctified it; there were no sanctuaries in it dedicated to Him; consequently, even food eaten in it was ‘unclean’ likewise, for it was not hallowed by part of it being brought into His house, and offered to Him. See Hos. 9:3, 4 (R.V. marg.); Ez. 4:13, with Cheyne’s and Davidson’s notes respectively; also O.T.J.C.2, pp. 249 f.
and Israel shall surely go into exile away from his land] Amos repeats exactly the words placed in his mouth by Amaziah in v. 11.