Amos was a herdsman, and engaged in agriculture. But the same Divine Spirit influenced Isaiah and Daniel in the court, and Amos in the sheep-folds, giving to each the powers and eloquence needful for them. He assures the twelve tribes of the destruction of the neighbouring nations; and as they at that time gave themselves up to wickedness and idolatry, he reproves the Jewish nation with severity; but describes the restoration of the church by the Messiah, extending to the latter days.
Judgments against the Syrians, Philistines, Tyrians, Edomites, and Ammonites.
- GOD employed a shepherd, a herdsman, to reprove and warn the people. Those to whom God gives abilities for his services, ought not to be despised for their origin, or their employment. Judgments are denounced against the neighbouring nations, the oppressors of God's people. The number of transgressions does not here mean that exact number, but many: they had filled the measure of their sins, and were ripe for vengeance. The method in dealing with these nations is, in part, the same, yet in each there is something peculiar. In all ages this bitterness has been shown against the Lord's people. When the Lord reckons with his enemies, how tremendous are his judgments!
Amos 1:1-15 . GOD'S JUDGMENTS ON SYRIA, PHILISTIA, TYRE, EDOM, AND AMMON.
1. The words of Amos--that is, Amos' oracular communications. A heading found only in Jeremiah 1:1 .
among the herdmen--rather, "shepherds"; both owning and tending sheep; from an Arabic root, "to mark with pricks," namely, to select the best among a species of sheep and goats ill-shapen and short-footed (as others explain the name from an Arabic root), but distinguished by their wool [MAURER]. God chooses "the weak things of the world to confound the mighty," and makes a humble shepherd reprove the arrogance of Israel and her king arising from prosperity (compare 1 Samuel 17:40 ).
which he saw--in supernatural vision ( Isaiah 1:1 ).
two years before the earthquake--mentioned in Zechariah 14:5 . The earthquake occurred in Uzziah's reign, at the time of his being stricken with leprosy for usurping the priest's functions [JOSEPHUS, Antiquities, 9:10.4]. This clause must have been inserted by Ezra and the compilers of the Jewish canon.
2. will roar--as a lion ( Joel 3:16 ). Whereas Jehovah is there represented roaring in Israel's behalf, here He roars against her (compare Psalms 18:13 , Jeremiah 25:30 ).
from Zion . . . Jerusalem--the seat of the theocracy, from which ye have revolted; not from Dan and Beth-el, the seat of your idolatrous worship of the calves.
habitations . . . mourn--poetical personification. Their inhabitants shall mourn, imparting a sadness to the very habitations.
Carmel--the mountain promontory north of Israel, in Asher, abounding in rich pastures, olives, and vines. The name is the symbol of fertility. When Carmel itself "withers," how utter the desolation! ( Solomon 7:5 , Isaiah 33:9 , 35:2 , Jeremiah 50:19 , Nahum 1:4 ).
3. Here begins a series of threatenings of vengeance against six other states, followed by one against Judah, and ending with one against Israel, with whom the rest of the prophecy is occupied. The eight predictions are in symmetrical stanzas, each prefaced by "Thus saith the Lord." Beginning with the sin of others, which Israel would be ready enough to recognize, he proceeds to bring home to Israel her own guilt. Israel must not think hereafter, because she sees others visited similarly to herself, that such judgments are matters of chance; nay, they are divinely foreseen and foreordered, and are confirmations of the truth that God will not clear the guilty. If God spares not the nations that know not the truth, how much less Israel that sins wilfully ( Luke 12:47 Luke 12:48 , 4:17 )!
for three transgressions . . . and for four--If Damascus had only sinned once or twice, I would have spared them, but since, after having been so often pardoned, they still persevere so continually, I will no longer "turn away" their punishment. The Hebrew is simply, "I will not reverse it," namely, the sentence of punishment which follows; the negative expression implies more than it expresses; that is, "I will most surely execute it"; God's fulfilment of His threats being more awful than human language can express. "Three and four" imply sin multiplied on sin (compare Exodus 20:5 , Proverbs 30:15 Proverbs 30:18 Proverbs 30:21 ; "six and seven," Job 5:19 ; "once and twice," Job 33:14 ; "twice and thrice," Margin; "oftentimes," English Version, Job 33:29 ; "seven and also eight," Ecclesiastes 11:2 ). There may be also a reference to seven, the product of three and four added; seven expressing the full completion of the measure of their guilt ( Leviticus 26:18 Leviticus 26:21 Leviticus 26:24 ; compare Matthew 23:32 ).
threshed--the very term used of the Syrian king Hazael's oppression of Israel under Jehu and Jehoahaz ( 2 Kings 10:32 2 Kings 10:33 , 13:7 ). The victims were thrown before the threshing sledges, the teeth of which tore their bodies. So David to Ammon ( 2 Samuel 12:31 ; compare Isaiah 28:27 ).
4. Hazael . . . Ben-hadad--A black marble obelisk found in the central palace of Nimroud, and now in the British Museum, is inscribed with the names of Hazael and Ben-hadad of Syria, as well as Jehu of Israel, mentioned as tributaries of "Shalmanubar," king of Assyria. The kind of tribute from Jehu is mentioned: gold, pearls, precious oil, &c. [G. V. SMITH]. The Ben-hadad here is the son of Hazael ( 2 Kings 13:3 ), not the Ben-hadad supplanted and slain by Hazael ( 2 Kings 8:7 2 Kings 8:15 ). The phrase, "I will send a fire," that is, the flame of war ( Psalms 78:63 ), occurs also in Amos 1:7 Amos 1:10 Amos 1:12 Amos 1:14 , and Amos 2:2 Amos 2:5 , Jeremiah 49:27 , Hosea 8:14 .
5. bar of Damascus--that is, the bar of its gates (compare Jeremiah 51:30 ).
the inhabitant--singular for plural, "inhabitants." HENDERSON, because of the parallel, "him that holdeth the scepter," translates, "the ruler." But the parallelism is that of one clause complementing the other, "the inhabitant" or subject here answering to "him that holdeth the scepter" or ruler there, both ruler and subject alike being cut off.
Aven--the same as Oon or Un, a delightful valley, four hours' journey from Damascus, towards the desert. Proverbial in the East as a place of delight [JOSEPHUS ABASSUS]. It is here parallel to "Eden," which also means "pleasantness"; situated at Lebanon. As JOSEPHUS ABASSUS is a doubtful authority, perhaps the reference may be rather to the valley between Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon, called El-Bekaa, where are the ruins of the Baal-bek temple of the sun; so the Septuagint renders it On, the same name as the city in Egypt bears, dedicated to the sun-worship ( Genesis 41:45 ; Heliopolis, "the city of the sun," Ezekiel 30:17 , Margin). It is termed by Amos "the valley of Aven," or "vanity," from the worship of idols in it.
Kir--a region subject to Assyria ( Isaiah 22:6 ) in Iberia, the same as that called now in Armenian Kur, lying by the river Cyrus which empties itself into the Caspian Sea. Tiglath-pileser fulfilled this prophecy when Ahaz applied for help to him against Rezin king of Syria, and the Assyrian king took Damascus, slew Rezin, and carried away its people captive to Kir.
6. Gaza--the southernmost of the five capitals of the five divisions of Philistia, and the key to Palestine on the south: hence put for the whole Philistine nation. Uzziah commenced the fulfilment of this prophecy (see 2 Chronicles 26:6 ).
because they carried away . . . the whole captivity--that is, they left none. Compare with the phrase here, Jeremiah 13:19 , "Judah . . . carried captive all of it . . . wholly carried away." Under Jehoram already the Philistines had carried away all the substance of the king of Judah, and his wives and his sons, "so that there was never a son left to him, save Jehoahaz"; and after Amos' time (if the reference includes the future, which to the prophet's eye is as if already done), under Ahaz ( 2 Chronicles 28:18 ), they seized on all the cities and villages of the low country and south of Judah.
to deliver them up to Edom--Judah's bitterest foe; as slaves ( Amos 1:9 ; compare Joel 3:1 Joel 3:3 Joel 3:6 ). GROTIUS refers it to the fact ( Isaiah 16:4 ) that on Sennacherib's invasion of Judah, many fled for refuge to neighboring countries; the Philistines, instead of hospitably sheltering the refugees, sold them, as if captives in war, to their enemies, the Idumeans.
7. fire--that is, the flame of war ( Numbers 21:28 , Isaiah 26:11 ). Hezekiah fulfilled the prophecy, smiting the Philistines unto Gaza ( 2 Kings 18:8 ). Foretold also by Isaiah 14:29 Isaiah 14:31 .
8. Ashdod, &c.--Gath alone is not mentioned of the five chief Philistine cities. It had already been subdued by David; and it, as well as Ashdod, was taken by Uzziah ( 2 Chronicles 26:6 ). Gath perhaps had lost its position as one of the five primary cities before Amos uttered this prophecy, whence arose his omission of it. So Zephaniah 2:4 Zephaniah 2:5 . Compare Jeremiah 47:4 , Ezekiel 25:16 . Subsequently to the subjugation of the Philistines by Uzziah, and then by Hezekiah, they were reduced by Psammetichus of Egypt, Nebuchadnezzar, the Persians, Alexander, and lastly the Asmoneans.
9. Tyrus . . . delivered up the . . . captivity to Edom--the same charge as against the Philistines ( Amos 1:6 ).
remembered not the brotherly covenant--the league of Hiram of Tyre with David and Solomon, the former supplying cedars for the building of the temple and king's house in return for oil and corn ( 2 Samuel 5:11 , 1 Kings 5:2-6 , 1 Kings 9:11-14 1 Kings 9:27 1 Kings 9:10-22 , 1 Chronicles 14:1 , 2 Chronicles 8:18 , 9:10 ).
10. fire--(Compare Amos 1:4,7'Isaiah 23:1-18'Ezekiel 26:1-28:26'). Many parts of Tyre were burnt by fiery missiles of the Chaldeans under Nebuchadnezzar. Alexander of Macedon subsequently overthrew it.
11. Edom . . . did pursue his brother--( Isaiah 34:5 ). The chief aggravation to Edom's violence against Israel was that they both came from the same parents, Isaac and Rebekah (compare Genesis 25:24-26 , Deuteronomy 23:7 Deuteronomy 23:8 , Obadiah 1:10 Obadiah 1:12 , Malachi 1:2 ).
cast off all pity--literally, "destroy compassions," that is, did suppress all the natural feeling of pity for a brother in distress.
his wrath for ever--As Esau kept up his grudge against Jacob, for having twice supplanted him, namely, as to the birthright and the blessing ( Genesis 27:41 ), so Esau's posterity against Israel ( Numbers 20:14 Numbers 20:21 ). Edom first showed his spite in not letting Israel pass through his borders when coming from the wilderness, but threatening to "come out against him with the sword"; next, when the Syrians attacked Jerusalem under Ahaz (compare 2 Chronicles 28:17 , with 2 Kings 16:5 ); next, when Nebuchadnezzar assailed Jerusalem ( Psalms 137:7 Psalms 137:8 ). In each case Edom chose the day of Israel's calamity for venting his grudge. This is the point of Edom's guilt dwelt on in Obadiah 1:10-13 . God punishes the children, not for the sin of their fathers, but for their own filling up the measure of their fathers' guilt, as children generally follow in the steps of, and even exceed, their fathers' guilt (compare Exodus 20:5 ).
12. Teman--a city of Edom, called from a grandson of Esau ( Genesis 36:11 Genesis 36:15 , Obadiah 1:8 Obadiah 1:9 ); situated five miles from Petra; south of the present Wady Musa. Its people were famed for wisdom ( Jeremiah 49:7 ).
Bozrah--a city of Edom ( Isaiah 63:1 ). Selah or Petra is not mentioned, as it had been overthrown by Amaziah ( 2 Kings 14:7 ).
13. Ammon--The Ammonites under Nahash attacked Jabesh-gilead and refused to accept the offer of the latter to save them, unless the Jabesh-gileadites would put out all their right eyes ( 1 Samuel 11:1 , &c.). Saul rescued Jabesh-gilead. The Ammonites joined the Chaldeans in their invasion of Judea for the sake of plunder.
ripped up . . . women with-child--as Hazael of Syria also did ( 2 Kings 8:12 ; compare Hosea 13:16 ). Ammon's object in this cruel act was to leave Israel without "heir," so as to seize on Israel's inheritance ( Jeremiah 49:1 ).
14. Rabbah--the capital of Ammon: meaning "the Great." Distinct from Rabbah of Moab. Called Philadelphia, afterwards, from Ptolemy Philadelphus.
tempest--that is, with an onset swift, sudden, and resistless as a hurricane.
day of the whirlwind--parallel to "the day of battle"; therefore meaning "the day of the foe's tumultuous assault."
15. their king . . . princes--or else, "their Molech (the idol of Ammon) and his priests" [GROTIUS and Septuagint]. Isaiah 43:28 so uses "princes" for "priests." So "your Molech," Amos 5:26 ; and Jeremiah 49:3 , Margin. English Version, however, is perhaps preferable both here and in Jeremiah 49:3 ;