Judgments against Moab and Judah. (1-8) The ingratitude and ruin of Israel. (9-16)
Verses 1-8 The evil passions of the heart break out in various forms; but the Lord looks to our motives, as well as our conduct. Those that deal cruelly, shall be cruelly dealt with. Other nations were reckoned with for injuries done to men; Judah is reckoned with for dishonour done to God. Judah despised the law of the Lord; and he justly gave them up to strong delusion; nor was it any excuse for their sin, that they were the lies, the idols, after which their fathers walked. The worst abominations and most grievous oppressions have been committed by some of the professed worshippers of the Lord. Such conduct leads many to unbelief and vile idolatry.
Verses 9-16 We need often to be reminded of the mercies we have received; which add much to the evil of the sins we have committed. They had helps for their souls, which taught them how to make good use of their earthly enjoyments, and were therefore more valuable. Faithful ministers are great blessings to any people; but it is God that raises them up to be so. Sinners' own consciences will witness that he has not been wanting to them in the means of grace. They did what they could to lead believers aside. Satan and his agents are busy to corrupt the minds of young people who look heavenward; they overcome many by drawing them to the love of mirth and pleasure, and into drinking company. Multitudes of young men who bade fair as professors of religion, have erred through strong drink, and have been undone for ever. The Lord complains of sin, especially the sins of his professing people, as a burden to him. And though his long-suffering be tired, his power is not, and so the sinner will find to his cost. When men reject God's word, adding obstinacy to sin, and this becomes the general character of a people, they will be given up to misery, notwithstanding all their boasted power and resources. May we then humble ourselves before the Lord, for all our ingratitude and unfaithfulness.
Amos 2:1-16 . CHARGES AGAINST MOAB, JUDAH, AND LASTLY ISRAEL, THE CHIEF SUBJECT OF AMOS' PROPHECIES.
1. burned . . . bones of . . . king of Edom into lime--When Jehoram of Israel, Jehoshaphat of Judah, and the king of Edom, combined against Mesha king of Moab, the latter failing in battle to break through to the king of Edom, took the oldest son of the latter and offered him as a burnt offering on the wall ( 2 Kings 3:27 ) [MICHAELIS]. Thus, "king of Edom" is taken as the heir to the throne of Edom. But "his son" is rather the king of Moab's own son, whom the father offered to Molech [JOSEPHUS, Antiquities, 9.3]. Thus the reference here in Amos is not to that fact, but to the revenge which probably the king of Moab took on the king of Edom, when the forces of Israel and Judah had retired after their successful campaign against Moab, leaving Edom without allies. The Hebrew tradition is that Moab in revenge tore from their grave and burned the bones of the king of Edom, the ally of Jehoram and Jehoshaphat, who was already buried. Probably the "burning of the bones" means, "he burned the king of Edom alive, reducing his very bones to lime" [MAURER].
2. Kirioth--the chief city of Moab, called also Kir-Moab ( Isaiah 15:1 ). The form is plural here, as including both the acropolis and town itself (see Jeremiah 48:24 Jeremiah 48:41 , Margin).
die with tumult--that is, amid the tumult of battle ( Hosea 10:14 ).
3. the judge--the chief magistrate, the supreme source of justice. "King" not being used, it seems likely a change of government had before this time substituted for kings, supreme judges.
4. From foreign kingdoms he passes to Judah and Israel, lest it should be said, he was strenuous in denouncing sins abroad, but connived at those of his own nation. Judah's guilt differs from that of all the others, in that it was directly against God, not merely against man. Also because Judah's sin was wilful and wittingly against light and knowledge.
law--the Mosaic code in general.
commandments--or statutes, the ceremonies and civil laws.
their lies--their lying idols ( Psalms 40:4 , Jeremiah 16:19 ), from which they drew false hopes. The order is to be observed. The Jews first cast off the divine law, then fall into lying errors; God thus visiting them with a righteous retribution ( Romans 1:25 Romans 1:26 Romans 1:28 , 2 Thessalonians 2:11 2 Thessalonians 2:12 ). The pretext of a good intention is hereby refuted: the "lies" that mislead them are "their (own) lies" [CALVIN].
after . . . which their fathers . . . walked--We are not to follow the fathers in error, but must follow the word of God alone. It was an aggravation of the Jews' sin that it was not confined to preceding generations; the sins of the sons rivalled those of their fathers ( Matthew 23:32 , Acts 7:51 ) [CALVIN].
5. a fire--Nebuchadnezzar.
6. Israel--the ten tribes, the main subject of Amos' prophecies.
sold the righteous--Israel's judges for a bribe are induced to condemn in judgment him who has a righteous cause; in violation of Deuteronomy 16:19 .
the poor for a pair of shoes--literally, "sandals" of wood, secured on the foot by leather straps; less valuable than shoes. Compare the same phrase, for "the most paltry bribe," Amos 8:6 , Ezekiel 13:19 , Joel 3:3 . They were not driven by poverty to such a sin; beginning with suffering themselves to be tempted by a large bribe, they at last are so reckless of all shame as to prostitute justice for the merest trifle. Amos convicts them of injustice, incestuous unchastity, and oppression first, as these were so notorious that they could not deny them, before he proceeds to reprove their contempt of God, which they would have denied on the ground that they worshipped God in the form of the calves.
7. pant after . . . dust of . . . earth on . . . head of . . . poor--that is, eagerly thirst for this object, by their oppression to prostrate the poor so as to cast the dust on their heads in mourning on the earth (compare 2 Samuel 1:2 , Job 2:12 , Ezekiel 27:30 ).
turn aside . . . way of . . . meek--pervert their cause ( Amos 5:12 , Job 24:4 [GROTIUS]; Isaiah 10:2 ).
a man and his father--a crime "not so much as named among the Gentiles" ( 1 Corinthians 5:1 ). When God's people sin in the face of light, they often fall lower than even those who know not God.
go in unto the same maid--from Amos 2:8 it seems likely "the damsel" meant is one of the prostitutes attached to the idol Astarte's temple: prostitution being part of her filthy worship.
to profane my . . . name--Israel in such abominations, as it were, designedly seeks to insult God.
8. lay themselves . . . upon clothes laid to pledge--the outer garment, which Exodus 22:25-27 ordered to be restored to the poor man before sunset, as being his only covering. It aggravated the crime that they lay on these clothes in an idol temple.
by every altar--They partook in a recumbent posture of their idolatrous feasts; the ancients being in the habit of reclining at full length in eating, the upper part of the body resting on the left elbow, not sitting as we do.
drink . . . wine of the condemned--that is, wine bought with the money of those whom they unjustly fined.
9. Yet--My former benefits to you heighten your ingratitude.
the Amorite--the most powerful of all the Canaanite nations, and therefore put for them all ( Genesis 15:16 , 48:22 , Deuteronomy 1:20 , Joshua 7:7 ).
height . . . like . . . cedars--( Numbers 13:32 Numbers 13:33 ).
destroyed his fruit . . . above . . . roots . . . beneath--that is, destroyed him utterly ( Job 18:16 , Ezekiel 17:9 , Malachi 4:1 ).
10. brought you up from . . . Egypt--"brought up" is the phrase, as Egypt was low and flat, and Canaan hilly.
to possess the land of the Amorite--The Amorites strictly occupied both sides of the Jordan and the mountains afterward possessed by Judah; but they here, as in Amos 2:9 , stand for all the Canaanites. God kept Israel forty years in the wilderness, which tended to discipline them in His statutes, so as to be the better fitted for entering on the possession of Canaan.
11. Additional obligations under which Israel lay to God; the prophets and Nazarites, appointed by Him, to furnish religious instruction and examples of holy self-restraint.
of your young men--It was a specimen of Israel's highly favored state, that, of the class most addicted to pleasures, God chose those who by a solemn vow bound themselves to abstinence from all produce of the vine, and from all ceremonial and moral defilement. The Nazarite was not to shave ( Numbers 6:2 , &c.). God left nothing undone to secure the purity of their worship and their faithfulness to it ( Lamentations 4:7 ). The same comes from a Hebrew root, nazar, "to set apart." Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist were Nazarites.
Is it not even thus--Will any of you dare to deny it is so?
12. Ye so despised these My favors, as to tempt the Nazarite to break his vow; and forbade the prophets prophesying ( Isaiah 30:10 ). So Amaziah forbade Amos ( Amos 7:12 Amos 7:13 Amos 7:14 ).
13. I am pressed under you--so CALVIN (Compare Isaiah 1:14 ). The Margin translates actively, "I will depress your place," that is, "I will make it narrow," a metaphor for afflicting a people; the opposite of enlarging, that is, relieving ( Psalms 4:1 , Proverbs 4:12 ). MAURER translates, "I will press you down" (not as Margin, "your place"; so the Hebrew, Job 40:12 ; or Amos 2:7 in Hebrew text). Amos, as a shepherd, appropriately draws his similes from rustic scenes.
14. flight shall perish from . . . swift--Even the swift shall not be able to escape.
strong shall not strengthen his force--that is, shall not be able to use his strength.
himself--literally, "his life."
16. flee . . . naked--If any escape, it must be with the loss of accoutrements, and all that would impede rapid flight. They must be content with saving their life alone.