Judgments against Israel. (1-8) The like to other nations. (9-15)
Verses 1-8 The distinguishing favours of God to us, if they do not restrain from sin, shall not exempt from punishment. They could not expect communion with God, unless they first sought peace with him. Where there is not friendship, there can be no fellowship. God and man cannot walk together, except they are agreed. Unless we seek his glory, we cannot walk with him. Let us not presume on outward privileges, without special, sanctifying grace. The threatenings of the word and providence of God against the sin of man are certain, and certainly show that the judgments of God are at hand. Nor will God remove the affliction he has sent, till it has done its work. The evil of sin is from ourselves, it is our own doing; but the evil of trouble is from God, and is his doing, whoever are the instruments. This should engage us patiently to bear public troubles, and to study to answer God's meaning in them. The whole of the passage shows that natural evil, or troubles, and not moral evil, or sin, is here meant. The warning given to a careless world will increase its condemnation another day. Oh the amazing stupidity of an unbelieving world, that will not be wrought upon by the terrors of the Lord, and that despise his mercies!
Verses 9-15 That power which is an instrument of unrighteousness, will justly be brought down and broken. What is got and kept wrongfully, will not be kept long. Some are at ease, but there will come a day of visitation, and in that day, all they are proud of, and put confidence in, shall fail them. God will inquire into the sins of which they have been guilty in their houses, the robbery they have stored up, and the luxury in which they lived. The pomp and pleasantness of men's houses, do not fortify against God's judgments, but make sufferings the more grievous and vexatious. Yet a remnant, according to the election of grace, will be secured by our great and good Shepherd, as from the jaws of destruction, in the worst times.
Amos 3:1-15 . GOD'S EXTRAORDINARY LOVE, BEING REPAID BY ISRAEL WITH INGRATITUDE, OF NECESSITY CALLS FOR JUDGMENTS, WHICH THE PROPHETS ANNOUNCE, NOT AT RANDOM, BUT BY GOD'S COMMISSION, WHICH THEY CANNOT BUT FULFIL. THE OPPRESSION PREVALENT IN ISRAEL WILL BRING DOWN RUIN ON ALL SAVE A SMALL REMNANT.
1. children of Israel--not merely the ten tribes, but "the whole family brought up from Egypt"; all the descendants of Jacob, including Judah and Benjamin. Compare Jeremiah 8:3 , and Micah 2:3 , on "family" for the nation However, as the prophecy following refers to the ten tribes, they must be chiefly, if not solely, meant: they were the majority of the nation; and so Amos concedes what they so often boasted, that they were the elect people of God [CALVIN], but implies that this only heightens their sins.
2. You only have I known--that is, acknowledged as My people, and treated with peculiar favor ( Exodus 19:5 , Deuteronomy 4:20 ). Compare the use of "know," Psalms 1:6 , 144:3 , John 10:14 , 2 Timothy 2:19 .
therefore I will punish--the greater the privileges, the heavier the punishment for the abuse of them; for to the other offenses there is added, in this case, ingratitude. When God's people do not glorify Him, He glorifies Himself by punishing them.
3-6. Here follow several questions of a parable-like kind, to awaken conviction in the people.
Can two walk together, except they be agreed?--Can God's prophets be so unanimous in prophesying against you, if God's Spirit were not joined with them, or if their prophecies were false? The Israelites were "at ease," not believing that God was with the prophets in their denunciations of coming ruin to the nation ( Amos 6:1 Amos 6:3 ; compare 1 Kings 22:18 1 Kings 22:24 1 Kings 22:27 , Jeremiah 43:2 ). This accords with Amos 3:7 Amos 3:8 . So "I will be with thy mouth" ( Exodus 4:12 , Jeremiah 1:8 , Matthew 10:20 ). If the prophets and God were not agreed, the former could not predict the future as they do. In Amos 2:12 He had said, the Israelites forbade the prophets prophesying; therefore, in Amos 3:3 Amos 3:8 , He asserts the agreement between the prophets and God who spake by them against Israel [ROSENMULLER]. Rather, "I once walked with you" ( Leviticus 26:12 ) as a Father and Husband ( Isaiah 54:5 , Jeremiah 3:14 ); but now your way and Mine are utterly diverse; there can therefore be no fellowship between us such as there was ( Amos 3:2 ); I will walk with you only to "punish you"; as a "lion" walks with his "prey" ( Amos 3:4 ), as a bird-catcher with a bird [TARNOVIUS]. The prophets, and all servants of God, can have no fellowship with the ungodly ( Psalms 119:63 , 2 Corinthians 6:16 2 Corinthians 6:17 , Ephesians 5:11 , 4:4 ).
4. The same idea as in Matthew 24:28 . Where a corrupt nation is, there God's instruments of punishment are sure also to be. The lion roars loudly only when he has prey in sight.
Will a young lion cry out . . . if he--the "lion," not the "young lion."
have taken nothing?--The young lion just weaned lies silent, until the old lion brings the prey near; then the scent rouses him. So, the prophet would not speak against Israel, if God did not reveal to him Israel's sins as requiring punishment.
5. When a bird trying to fly upwards is made to fall upon the earth snare, it is a plain proof that the snare is there; so, Israel, now that thou art falling, infer thence, that it is in the snare of the divine judgment that thou art entangled [LUDOVICUS DE DIEU].
shall one take up a snare from the earth, and have taken nothing--The bird-catcher does not remove his snare off the ground till he has caught some prey; so God will not withdraw the Assyrians, &c., the instruments of punishment, until they have had the success against you which God gives them. The foe corresponds to the "snare," suddenly springing from the ground and enclosing the bird on the latter touching it; the Hebrew is literally, "Shall the snare spring from the earth?" Israel entangled in judgments answers to the bird "taken."
6. When the sound of alarm is trumpeted by the watchman in the city, the people are sure to run to and fro in alarm (Hebrew, literally). Yet Israel is not alarmed, though God threatens judgments.
shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?--This is the explanation of the preceding similes: God is the Author of all the calamities which come upon you, and which are foretold by His prophets. The evil of sin is from ourselves; the evil of trouble is from God, whoever be the instruments.
7. his secret--namely, His purpose hidden from all, until it is revealed to His prophets (compare Genesis 18:17 ). In a wider sense, God's will is revealed to all who love God, which it is not to the world ( Psalms 25:14 , John 15:15 , John 17:25 John 17:26 ).
unto his servants--who being servants cannot but obey their Lord in setting forth His purpose (namely, that of judgment against Israel) ( Jeremiah 20:9 , Ezekiel 9:11 ). Therefore the fault which the ungodly find with them is groundless ( 1 Kings 18:17 ). It aggravates Israel's sin, that God is not about to inflict judgment, without having fully warned the people, if haply they might repent.
8. As when "the lion roars" (compare Amos 1:2 , Amos 3:4 ), none can help but "fear," so when Jehovah communicates His awful message, the prophet cannot but prophesy. Find not fault with me for prophesying; I must obey God. In a wider sense true of all believers ( Acts 4:20 , 5:29 ).
9. Publish in . . . palaces--as being places of greatest resort (compare Matthew 10:27 ); and also as it is the sin of princes that he arraigns, he calls on princes (the occupants of the "palaces") to be the witnesses.
Ashdod--put for all Philistia. Convene the Philistine and the Egyptian magnates, from whom I have on various occasions rescued Israel. (The opposite formula to "Tell it not in Gath," namely, lest the heathen should glory over Israel). Even these idolaters, in looking on your enormities, will condemn you; how much more will the holy God?
upon the mountains of Samaria--on the hills surrounding and commanding the view of Samaria, the metropolis of the ten tribes, which was on a lower hill ( Amos 4:1 , 1 Kings 16:24 ). The mountains are to be the tribunal on which the Philistines and Egyptians are to sit aloft to have a view of your crimes, so as to testify to the justice of your punishment ( Amos 3:13 ).
tumults--caused by the violence of the princes of Israel in "oppressions" of the poor ( Job 35:9 , Ecclesiastes 4:1 ).
10. know not to do--Their moral corruption blinds their power of discernment so that they cannot do right ( Jeremiah 4:22 ). Not simple intellectual ignorance; the defect lay in the heart and will.
store up violence and robbery--that is, treasures obtained by "violence and robbery" ( Proverbs 10:2 ).
11. Translate, "An adversary (the abruptness produces a startling effect)! and that too, from every side of the land." So in the fulfilment, 2 Kings 17:5 : "The king of Assyria (Shalmaneser) came up throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria, and besieged it three years."
bring down thy strength from thee--that is, bring thee down from thy strength (the strength on which thou didst boast thyself): all thy resources ( Proverbs 10:15 ).
palaces shall be spoiled--a just retribution in kind ( Amos 3:10 ). The palaces in which spoils of robbery were stored up, "shall be spoiled."
12. shepherd--a pastoral image, appropriately used by Amos, a shepherd himself.
piece of . . . ear--brought by the shepherd to the owner of the sheep, so as not to have to pay for the loss ( Genesis 31:39 , Exodus 22:13 ). So if aught of Israel escapes, it shall be a miracle of God's goodness. It shall be but a scanty remnant. There is a kind of goat in the East the ears of which are a foot long, and proportionally broad. Perhaps the reference is to this. Compare on the image 1 Samuel 17:34 1 Samuel 17:35 , 2 Timothy 4:17 .
that dwell in Samaria in the corner of a bed--that is, that live luxuriously in Samaria (compare Amos 6:1 Amos 6:4 ). "A bed" means here the Oriental divan, a raised part of the room covered with cushions.
in Damascus in a couch--Jeroboam II had lately restored Damascus to Israel ( 2 Kings 14:25 2 Kings 14:28 ). So the Israelites are represented as not merely in "the corner of a bed," as in Samaria, but "in a (whole) couch," at Damascus, living in luxurious ease. Of these, now so luxurious, soon but a remnant shall be left by the foe. The destruction of Damascus and that of Samaria shall be conjoined; as here their luxurious lives, and subsequently under Pekah and Rezin their inroads on Judah, were combined ( Isaiah 7:1-8 , Isaiah 8:4 Isaiah 8:9 , 17:3 ). The parallelism of "Samaria" to "Damascus," and the Septuagint favor English Version rather than GESENIUS: "on a damask couch." The Hebrew pointing, though generally expressing damask, may express the city "Damascus"; and many manuscripts point it so. Compare for Israel's overthrow, 2 Kings 17:5 2 Kings 17:6 , 18:9-12 .
13. testify in the house, &c.--that is, against the house of Jacob. God calls on the same persons as in Amos 3:9 , namely, the heathen Philistines and the Egyptians to witness with their own eyes Samaria's corruptions above described, so that none may be able to deny the justice of Samaria's punishment [MAURER].
God of hosts--having all the powers of heaven and earth at His command, and therefore One calculated to strike terror into the hearts of the guilty whom He threatens.
14. That--rather, "since," or "for." This verse is not, as English Version translates, the thing which the witnesses cited are to "testify" ( Amos 3:13 ), but the reason why God calls on the heathen to witness Samaria's guilt; namely, in order to justify the punishment which He declares He will inflict.
I will also visit . . . Beth-el--the golden calves which were the source of all "the transgressions of Israel" ( 1 Kings 12:32 , 13:2 , 2 Kings 23:15 2 Kings 23:16 ), though Israel thought that by them their transgressions were atoned for and God's favor secured.
horns of the altar--which used to be sprinkled with the blood of victims. They were horn-like projecting points at the corners of ancient altars. The singular, "altar," refers to the great altar erected by Jeroboam to the calves. The "altars," plural, refer to the lesser ones made in imitation of the great one ( 2 Chronicles 34:5 , compare with 1 Kings 13:2 , Hosea 8:11 , 10:1 ).
15. winter . . . summer house--( Judges 3:20 , Jeremiah 36:22 ). Winter houses of the great were in sheltered positions facing the south to get all possible sunshine, summer houses in forests and on hills, facing the east and north.
houses of ivory--having their walls, doors, and ceilings inlaid with ivory. So Ahab's house ( 1 Kings 22:39 , Psalms 45:8 ).