Visions of judgments to come upon Israel. (1-9) Amaziah threatens Amos. (10-17)
Verses 1-9 God bears long, but he will not bear always with a provoking people. The remembrance of the mercies we formerly received, like the produce of the earth of the former growth, should make us submissive to the will of God, when we meet with disappointments in the latter growth. The Lord has many ways of humbling a sinful nation. Whatever trouble we are under, we should be most earnest with God for the forgiveness of sin. Sin will soon make a great people small. What will become of Israel, if the hand that should raise him be stretched out against him? See the power of prayer. See what a blessing praying people are to a land. See how ready, how swift God is to show mercy; how he waits to be gracious. Israel was a wall, a strong wall, which God himself reared as a defence to his sanctuary. The Lord now seems to stand upon this wall. He measures it; it appears to be a bowing, bulging wall. Thus God would bring the people of Israel to the trial, would discover their wickedness; and the time will come, when those who have been spared often, shall be spared no longer. But the Lord still calls Israel his people. The repeated prayer and success of the prophet should lead us to seek the Saviour.
Verses 10-17 It is no new thing for the accusers of the brethren, to misrepresent them as enemies to the king and kingdom, as traitors to their prince, and troublers of the land, when they are the best friends to both. Those who make gain their godliness, and are governed by the hopes of wealth and preferment, are ready to think these the most powerful motives with others also. But those who have a warrant from God, like Amos, ought not to fear the face of man. If God, that sent him, had not strengthened him, he could not thus have set his face as a flint. The Lord often chooses the weak and foolish things of the world to confound the wise and mighty. But no fervent prayers, or self-denying labours, can bring proud sinners to bear faithful reproofs and warnings. And all who oppose or despise the Divine word, must expect fatal effects to their souls, unless they repent.
The seventh, eighth, and ninth chapters contain VISIONS, WITH THEIR EXPLANATIONS. The seventh chapter consists of two parts. First ( Amos 7:1-9 ): PROPHECIES ILLUSTRATED BY THREE SYMBOLS: (1) A vision of grasshoppers or young locusts, which devour the grass, but are removed at Amos' entreaty; (2) Fire drying up even the deep, and withering part of the land, but removed at Amos' entreaty; (3) A plumb-line to mark the buildings for destruction. Secondly ( Amos 7:10-17 ): NARRATIVE OF AMAZIAH'S INTERRUPTION OF AMOS IN CONSEQUENCE OF THE FOREGOING PROPHECIES, AND PREDICTION OF HIS DOOM.
1. showed . . . me; and, behold--The same formula prefaces the three visions in this chapter, and the fourth in Amos 8:1 .
grasshoppers--rather, "locusts" in the caterpillar state, from a Hebrew root, "to creep forth." In the autumn the eggs are deposited in the earth; in the spring the young come forth [MAURER].
the latter growth--namely, of grass, which comes up after the mowing. They do not in the East mow their grass and make hay of it, but cut it off the ground as they require it.
the king's mowings--the first-fruits of the mown grass, tyrannically exacted by the king from the people. The literal locusts, as in Joel, are probably symbols of human foes: thus the "growth" of grass "after the king's mowings" will mean the political revival of Israel under Jeroboam II ( 2 Kings 14:25 ), after it had been mown down, as it were, by Hazael and Ben-hadad of Syria ( 2 Kings 13:3 ), [GROTIUS].
2. by whom shall Jacob arise?--If Thou, O God, dost not spare, how can Jacob maintain his ground, reduced as he is by repeated attacks of the Assyrians, and erelong about to be invaded by the Assyrian Pul ( 2 Kings 15:19 2 Kings 15:20 )? Compare Isaiah 51:19 . The mention of "Jacob" is a plea that God should "remember for them His covenant" with their forefather, the patriarch ( Psalms 106:45 ).
he is small--reduced in numbers and in strength.
3. repented for this--that is, of this. The change was not in the mind of God ( Numbers 2:19 , 1:17 ), but in the effect outwardly. God unchangeably does what is just; it is just that He should hear intercessory prayer ( James 5:16-18 ), as it would have been just for Him to have let judgment take its course at once on the guilty nation, but for the prayer of one or two righteous men in it (compare Genesis 18:23-33 1 Samuel 15:11 Jeremiah 42:10 ). The repentance of the sinner, and God's regard to His own attributes of mercy and covenanted love, also cause God outwardly to deal with him as if he repented ( Jonah 3:10 ), whereas the change in outward dealing is in strictest harmony with God's own unchangeableness.
It shall not be--Israel's utter overthrow now. Pul was influenced by God to accept money and withdraw from Israel.
4. called to contend--that is with Israel judicially ( Job 9:3 , Isaiah 66:16 , Ezekiel 38:22 ). He ordered to come at His call the infliction of punishment by "fire" on Israel, that is, drought (compare Amos 4:6-11 ), [MAURER]. Rather, war ( Numbers 21:28 ), namely, Tiglath-pileser [GROTIUS].
devoured the . . . deep--that is a great part of Israel, whom he carried away. Waters are the symbol for many people ( Revelation 17:15 ).
did eat up a part--namely, all the land (compare Amos 4:7 ) of Israel east of Jordan ( 1 Chronicles 5:26 , Isaiah 9:1 ). This was a worse judgment than the previous one: the locusts ate up the grass: the fire not only affects the surface of the ground, but burns up the very roots and reaches even to the deep.
7. wall made by a plumb-line--namely, perpendicular.
8. 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 Genesis 18:33 ). The plummet line was used not only in building, but in destroying houses ( 2 Kings 21:13 , Isaiah 28:17 , 34:11 , Lamentations 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 ( 2 Kings 17:3 2 Kings 17:5 2 Kings 17:6 2 Kings 17:23 ).
not . . . pass by . . . any more--not forgive them any more ( Amos 8:2 , Proverbs 19:11 , Micah 7:18 ).
9. high places--dedicated to idols.
of Isaac--They boasted of their following the example of their forefather Isaac, in erecting high places at Beer-sheba ( Amos 5:5 ; compare Genesis 26:23 Genesis 26:24 , 46:1 ); but he and Abraham erected them before the temple was appointed at Jerusalem--and to God; whereas they did so, after the temple had been fixed as the only place for sacrifices--and to idols. In the Hebrew here "Isaac" is written with s, instead of the usual ts; both forms mean "laughter"; the change of spelling perhaps expresses that their "high places of Isaac" may be well so called, but not as they meant by the name; for they are only fit to be laughed at in scorn. Probably, however, the mention of "Isaac" and "Israel" simply expresses that these names, which their degenerate posterity boasted in as if ensuring their safety, will not save them and their idolatrous "sanctuaries" on which they depended from ruin (compare Amos 8:14 ).
house of Jeroboam with . . . sword--fulfilled in the extinction of Zachariah, son of Jeroboam II, the last of the descendants of Jeroboam I, who had originated the idolatry of the calves ( 2 Kings 15:8-10 ).
Amos 7:10-17 . AMAZIAH'S CHARGE AGAINST AMOS: HIS DOOM FORETOLD.
10. priest of Beth-el--chief priest of the royal sanctuary to the calves at Beth-el. These being a device of state policy to keep Israel separate from Judah. Amaziah construes Amos words against them as treason. So in the case of Elijah and Jeremiah ( 1 Kings 18:17 , Jeremiah 37:13 Jeremiah 37:14 ). So the antitype Jesus was charged ( John 19:12 ); political expediency being made in all ages the pretext for dishonoring God and persecuting His servants ( John 11:48-50 ). So in the case of Paul ( Acts 17:6 Acts 17:7 , 24:5 ).
in the midst of . . . Israel--probably alluding to Amos' own words, "in the midst of . . . Israel" ( Amos 7:8 ), foretelling the state's overthrow to the very center. Not secretly, or in a corner, but openly, in the very center of the state, so as to upset the whole utterly.
land is not able to bear all his words--They are so many and so intolerable. A sedition will be the result. The mention of his being "priest of Beth-el" implies that it was for his own priestly gain, not for the king or state, he was so keen.
11. Jeroboam shall die, &c.--Amos had not said this: but that "the house of Jeroboam" should fall "with the sword" ( Amos 7:9 ). But Amaziah exaggerates the charge, to excite Jeroboam against him. The king, however, did not give ear to Amaziah, probably from religious awe of the prophet of Jehovah.
12. Also--Besides informing the king against Amos, lest that course should fail, as it did, Amaziah urges the troublesome prophet himself to go back to his own land Judah, pretending to advise him in friendliness.
seer--said contemptuously in reference to Amos visions which precede.
there eat bread--You can earn a livelihood there, whereas remaining here you will be ruined. He judges of Amos by his own selfishness, as if regard to one's own safety and livelihood are the paramount considerations. So the false prophets ( Ezekiel 13:19 ) were ready to say whatever pleased their hearers, however false, for "handfuls of barley and pieces of bread."
13. prophesy not again--( Amos 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 ( Genesis 28:16 Genesis 28:19 , Genesis 35:6 Genesis 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.
14. I was no prophet--in answer to Amaziah's insinuation ( Amos 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 1 Kings 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 Amos 7:15 , "flock"; the Hebrew for "herdsman" includes the meaning, shepherd, compare Amos 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 travelled about to visit the training schools, and cared for the members and even their widows ( 2 Kings 4:1 2 Kings 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 ( 2 Kings 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 1 Kings 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.
15. took me as I followed the flock--So David was taken ( 2 Samuel 7:8 , Psalms 78:70 Psalms 78:71 ). Messiah is the antitypical Shepherd ( Psalms 23:1-6 John 10:1-18 ).
unto my people--"against" [MAURER]; so Amos 7:16 . Jehovah claims them still as His by right, though slighting His authority. God would recover them to His service by the prophet's ministry.
16. drop--distil as the refreshing drops of rain ( Deuteronomy 32:2 , Ezekiel 21:2 ; compare Micah 2:6 Micah 2:11 ).
17. Thy wife shall be an harlot in the city--that is, shall be forced by the enemy, while thou art looking on, unable to prevent her dishonor ( Isaiah 13:16 , Lamentations 5:11 ). The words, "saith the Lord," are in striking opposition to "Thou sayest ( Amos 7:16 ).
divided by line--among the foe.
a polluted land--Israel regarded every foreign land as that which really her own land was now, "polluted" ( Isaiah 24:5 , Jeremiah 2:7 ).