The ruin of Israel. (1-10) The restoration of the Jews and the gospel blessing. (11-15)
Verses 1-10 The prophet, in vision, saw the Lord standing upon the idolatrous altar at Bethel. Wherever sinners flee from God's justice, it will overtake them. Those whom God brings to heaven by his grace, shall never be cast down; but those who seek to climb thither by vain confidence in themselves, will be cast down and filled with shame. That which makes escape impossible and ruin sure, is, that God will set his eyes upon them for evil, not for good. Wretched must those be on whom the Lord looks for evil, and not for good. The Lord would scatter the Jews, and visit them with calamities, as the corn is shaken in a sieve; but he would save some from among them. The astonishing preservation of the Jews as a distinct people, seems here foretold. If professors make themselves like the world, God will level them with the world. The sinners who thus flatter themselves, shall find that their profession will not protect them.
Verses 11-15 Christ died to gather together the children of God that were scattered abroad, here said to be those who were called by his name. The Lord saith this, who doeth this, who can do it, who has determined to do it, the power of whose grace is engaged for doing it. Verses ( 13-15 ) may refer to the early times of Christianity, but will receive a more glorious fulfilment in the events which all the prophets more or less foretold, and may be understood of the happy state when the fulness both of the Jews and the Gentiles come into the church. Let us continue earnest in prayer for the fulfilment of these prophecies, in the peace, purity, and the beauty of the church. God marvellously preserves his elect amidst the most fearful confusions and miseries. When all seems desperate, he wonderfully revives his church, and blesses her with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus. And great shall be the glory of that period, in which not one good thing promised shall remain unfulfilled.
Amos 9:1-15 . FIFTH AND LAST VISION.
None can escape the coming judgment in any hiding-place: for God is omnipresent and irresistible ( Amos 9:1-6 ). As a kingdom, Israel shall perish as if it never was in covenant with Him: but as individuals the house of Jacob shall not utterly perish, nay, not one of the least of the righteous shall fall, but only all the sinners ( Amos 9:7-10 ). Restoration of the Jews finally to their own land after the re-establishment of the fallen tabernacle of David; consequent conversion of all the heathen ( Amos 9:11-15 ).
1. Lord . . . upon the altar--namely, in the idolatrous temple at Beth-el; the calves which were spoken of in Amos 8:14 . Hither they would flee for protection from the Assyrians, and would perish in the ruins, with the vain object of their trust [HENDERSON]. Jehovah stands here to direct the destruction of it, them, and the idolatrous nation. He demands many victims on the altar, but they are to be human victims. CALVIN and FAIRBAIRN, and others, make it in the temple at Jerusalem. Judgment was to descend both on Israel and Judah. As the services of both alike ought to have been offered on the Jerusalem temple-altar, it is there that Jehovah ideally stands, as if the whole people were assembled there, their abominations lying unpardoned there, and crying for vengeance, though in fact committed elsewhere (compare Ezekiel 8:1-18 ). This view harmonizes with the similarity of the vision in Amos to that in Isaiah 6:1-13 , at Jerusalem. Also with the end of this chapter ( Amos 9:11-15 ), which applies both to Judah and Israel: "the tabernacle of David," namely, at Jerusalem. His attitude, "standing," implies fixity of purpose.
lintel--rather, the sphere-like capital of the column [MAURER].
posts--rather, "thresholds," as in Isaiah 6:4 , Margin. The temple is to be smitten below as well as above, to ensure utter destruction.
cut them in the head--namely, with the broken fragments of the capitals and columns (compare Psalms 68:21 , Habakkuk 3:13 ).
slay the last of them--their posterity [HENDERSON]. The survivors [MAURER]. Jehovah's directions are addressed to His angels, ministers of judgment (compare Ezekiel 9:1-11 ).
he that fleeth . . . shall not flee away--He who fancies himself safe and out of reach of the enemy shall be taken ( Amos 2:14 ).
2. Though they dig into hell--though they hide ever so deeply in the earth ( Psalms 139:8 ).
though they climb up to heaven--though they ascend the greatest heights ( Job 20:6 Job 20:7 , Jeremiah 51:53 , Obadiah 1:4 ).
3. Carmel--where the forests, and, on the west side, the caves, furnished hiding-places ( Amos 1:2 , Judges 6:2 , 1 Samuel 13:6 ).
the sea--the Mediterranean, which flows at the foot of Mount Carmel; forming a strong antithesis to it.
command the serpent--the sea-serpent, a term used for any great water monster ( Isaiah 27:1 ). The symbol of cruel and oppressive kings ( Psalms 74:13 Psalms 74:14 ).
4. though they go into captivity--hoping to save their lives by voluntarily surrendering to the foe.
5. As Amos had threatened that nowhere should the Israelites be safe from the divine judgments, he here shows God's omnipotent ability to execute His threats. So in the case of the threat in Amos 8:8 , God is here stated to be the first cause of the mourning of "all that dwell" in the land, and of its rising "like a flood, and of its being "drowned, as by the flood of Egypt."
6. stories--literally, "ascents," that is, upper chambers, to which the ascent is by steps [MAURER]; evidently referring to the words in Psalms 104:3 Psalms 104:13 . GROTIUS explains it, God's royal throne, expressed in language drawn from Solomon's throne, to which the ascent was by steps (compare 1 Kings 10:18 1 Kings 10:19 ).
founded his troop--namely, all animate creatures, which are God's troop, or host ( Genesis 2:1 ), doing His will ( Psalms 103:20 Psalms 103:21 , Joel 2:11 ). MAURER translates, "His vault," that is, the vaulted sky, which seems to rest on the earth supported by the horizon.
7. unto me--however great ye seem to yourselves. Do not rely on past privileges, and on My having delivered you from Egypt, as if therefore I never would remove you from Canaan. I make no more account of you than of "the Ethiopian" (compare Jeremiah 13:23 ). "Have not I (who) brought you out of Egypt," done as much for other peoples? For instance, did I not bring "the Philistines from Caphtor (compare Deuteronomy 2:23 ; Syrians from Kir?" It is appropriate, that as the Syrians migrated into Syria from Kir (compare Note, should be carried back captive into the same land 2 Kings 16:9 ), just as elsewhere Israel is threatened with a return to Egypt whence they had been delivered. The "Ethiopians," Hebrew, "Cushites," were originally akin to the race that founded Babylon: the cuneiform inscriptions in this confirming independently the Scripture statement ( Genesis 10:6 Genesis 10:8 Genesis 10:10 ).
8. eyes . . . upon the sinful kingdom--that is, I am watching all its sinful course in order to punish it (compare Amos 9:4 , Psalms 34:15 Psalms 34:16 ).
not utterly destroy the house of Jacob--Though as a "kingdom" the nation is now utterly to perish, a remnant is to be spared for "Jacob," their forefather's sake (compare Jeremiah 30:11 ); to fulfil the covenant whereby "the seed of Israel" is hereafter to be "a nation for ever" ( Jeremiah 31:36 ).
9. sift--I will cause the Israelites to be tossed about through all nations as corn is shaken about in a sieve, in such a way, however, that while the chaff and dust (the wicked) fall through (perish), all the solid grains (the godly elect) remain (are preserved), ( Romans 11:26 ; compare Note, So spiritual Israel's final safety is ensured ( Luke 22:32 , John 10:28 , 6:39 ).
10. All the sinners--answering to the chaff in the image in Amos 9:9 , which falls on the earth, in opposition "to the grain" that does not "fall."
overtake . . . us--"come on us from behind" [MAURER].
11. In that day--quoted by James ( Acts 15:16 Acts 15:17 ), "After this," that is, in the dispensation of Messiah ( Genesis 49:10 , Hosea 3:4 Hosea 3:5 , Joel 2:28 , 3:1 ).
tabernacle of David--not "the house of David," which is used of his affairs when prospering ( 2 Samuel 3:1 ), but the tent or booth, expressing the low condition to which his kingdom and family had fallen in Amos' time, and subsequently at the Babylonian captivity before the restoration; and secondarily, in the last days preceding Israel's restoration under Messiah, the antitype to David ( Psalms 102:13 Psalms 102:14 , Jeremiah 30:9 , Ezekiel 34:24 , 37:24 ; ( Ephesians 2:20 ). The restoration under Zerubbabel can only be a partial, temporary fulfilment; for it did not include Israel, which nation is the main subject of Amos prophecies, but only Judah; also Zerubbabel's kingdom was not independent and settled; also all the prophets end their prophecies with Messiah, whose advent is the cure of all previous disorders. "Tabernacle" is appropriate to Him, as His human nature is the tabernacle which He assumed in becoming Immanuel, "God with us" ( John 1:14 ). "Dwelt," literally, tabernacled "among us" (compare Revelation 21:3 ). Some understand "the tabernacle of David" as that which David pitched for the ark in Zion, after bringing it from Obed-edom's house. It remained there all his reign for thirty years, till the temple of Solomon was built, whereas the "tabernacle of the congregation" remained at Gibeon ( 2 Chronicles 1:3 ), where the priests ministered in sacrifices ( 1 Chronicles 16:39 ). Song and praise was the service of David's attendants before the ark (Asaph, &c.): a type of the gospel separation between the sacrificial service (Messiah's priesthood now in heaven) and the access of believers on earth to the presence of God, apart from the former (compare 2 Samuel 6:12-17 1 Chronicles 16:37-39 2 Chronicles 1:3 ).
breaches thereof--literally, "of them," that is, of the whole nation, Israel as well as Judah.
as in . . . days of old--as it was formerly in the days of David and Solomon, when the kingdom was in its full extent and undivided.
12. That they may possess . . . remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen--"Edom," the bitter foe, though the brother, of Israel; therefore to be punished ( Amos 1:11 Amos 1:12 ), Israel shall be lord of the "remnant" of Edom left after the punishment of the latter. James quotes it, "That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles," &c. For "all the heathen" nations stand on the same footing as Edom: Edom is the representative of them all. The residue or remnant in both cases expresses those left after great antecedent calamities ( Romans 9:27 , Zechariah 14:16 ). Here the conversion of "all nations" (of which the earnest was given in James's time) is represented as only to be realized on the re-establishment of the theocracy under Messiah, the Heir of the throne of David ( Amos 9:11 ). The possession of the heathen nations by Israel is to be spiritual, the latter being the ministers to the former for their conversion to Messiah, King of the Jews; just as the first conversions of pagans were through the ministry of the apostles, who were Jews. Compare Isaiah 54:3 , "thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles" (compare Isaiah 49:8 , Romans 4:13 ). A remnant of Edom became Jews under John Hyrcanus, and the rest amalgamated with the Arabians, who became Christians subsequently.
which are called by my name--that is, who belong to Me, whom I claim as Mine ( Psalms 2:8 ); in the purposes of electing grace, God terms them already called by His name. Compare the title, "the children," applied by anticipation, Hebrews 2:14 . Hence as an act of sovereign grace, fulfilling His promise, it is spoken of God. Proclaim His title as sovereign, "the Lord that doeth this" ("all these things," Acts 15:17 , namely, all these and such like acts of sovereign love).
13. the days come--at the future restoration of the Jews to their own land.
ploughman shall overtake . . . reaper . . . treader of grapes him that soweth--fulfilling Leviticus 26:5 . Such shall be the abundance that the harvest and vintage can hardly be gathered before the time for preparing for the next crop shall come. Instead of the greater part of the year being spent in war, the whole shall be spent in sowing and reaping the fruits of earth. Compare Isaiah 65:21-23 , as to the same period.
soweth seed--literally, "draweth it forth," namely, from the sack in order to sow it.
mountains . . . drop sweet wine--an appropriate image, as the vines in Palestine were trained on terraces at the sides of the hills.
14. build the waste cities--( Isaiah 61:4 , Ezekiel 36:33-36 ).
15. plant them . . . no more be pulled up--( Jeremiah 32:41 ).
thy God--Israel's; this is the ground of their restoration, God's original choice of them as His.