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Bible Commentaries

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Amos 4

Verse 1

Hear ye this, ye kine of Bashan - The pastures of Bashan were very rich, and it had its name probably from its richness of soil . The Batanea of later times was a province only of the kingdom of Bashan, which, with half of Gilead, was given to the half tribe of Manasseh. For the Bashan of Og included Golan Deuteronomy 4:43, (the capital of the subsequent Gaulonitis, now Jaulan) Beeshterah Joshua 21:27, (or Ashtaroth) 1 Chronicles 6:71, very probably Bostra (see ab. on 1 Chronicles 1:12), and Elrei Deuteronomy 1:4, in Hauran or Auranitis; the one on its southern border, the other perhaps on its northern boundary toward Trachonitis . Its eastern extremity at Salkah Deuteronomy 3:10; Joshua 13:11, (Sulkhad) is the southern point of Batanea (now Bathaniyyeh); Argob, or Trachonitis , (the Lejah) was its north eastern fence.

Westward it reached to Mount Hermon Deuteronomy 3:8; Joshua 12:5; Joshua 13:11; 1 Chronicles 5:23. It included the subsequent divisions, Gaulonitis, Auranitis, Batanea, and Trachonitis. Of these the mountain range on the northwest of Jaulan is still “everywhere clothed with oak-forests.” The Ard-el-Bathanyeh , “the country of Batanea or Bashan, is not surpassed in that land for beauty of its scenery, the richness of its pastures, and the extent of its oak forests.” “The Arabs of the desert still pasture their flocks on the luxuriant herbage of the Jaulan” . Its pastures are spoken of by Micah Micah 7:14 and Jeremiah Jeremiah 50:19. The animals fed there were among the strongest and fattest Deuteronomy 32:14. Hence, the male animals became a proverb for the mighty on the earth Exodus 39:18, the bulls furnished a type for fierce, unfeeling, enemies Psalms 22:12. Amos however, speaks of “kine;” not, as David, of “bulls.” He upbraids them not for fierceness, but for a more delicate and wanton unfeelingness, the fruit of luxury, fullness of bread, a life of sense, which destroy all tenderness, dull the mind, “banker out the wits,” deaden the spiritual sense.

The female name, “kine,” may equally brand the luxury and effeminacy of the rich men, or the cruelty of the rich women, of Samaria. He addresses these “kine” in both sexes, both male and female . The reproachful name was then probably intended to shame both; men, who laid aside their manliness in the delicacy of luxury; or ladies, who put off the tenderness of womanhood by oppression. The character of the oppression was the same in both cases. It was done, not directly by those who revelled in its fruits, but through the seduction of one who had authority over them. To the ladies of Samaria, “their lord” was their husband, as the husband is so called; to the nobles of Samaria, he was their king, who supplied their extravagances and debaucheries by grants, extorted from the poor.

Which oppress - Literally, “the oppressing!” The word expresses that they habitually oppressed and crushed the poor. They did it not directly; perhaps they did not know that it was done; they sought only, that their own thirst for luxury and self-indulgence should be gratified, and knew not, (as those at ease often know not now,) that their luxuries are continually watered by the tears of the poor, tears shed, almost unknown except by the Maker of both. But He counts willful ignorance no excuse. “He who doth through another, doth it himself,” said the pagan proverb. God says, they did “oppress,” were “continually oppressing, those in low estate,” and “crushing the poor” (a word is used expressing the vehemence with which they “crushed” them.) They “crushed” them, only through the continual demand of pleasures of sense, reckless how they were procured; “bring and let us drink.” They invite their husband or lord to joint self-indulgence.

Verse 2

The Lord God hath sworn by His holiness - They had sinned to profane His “Holy Name” (see the note at Amos 2:7). God swears by that holiness which they had profaned in themselves on whom it was called, and which they had caused to be profaned by others. He pledges His own holiness, that He will avenge their unholiness. : “In swearing “by His holiness,” God sware by Himself. For He is the supreme uncreated justice and Holiness. This justice each, in his degree, should imitate and maintain on earth, and these had sacrilegiously violated and overthrown.”

Days shall come (literally, are among) upon you - God’s Day and eternity are ever coming. He reminds them of their continual approach. He says not only that they will certainly come, but they are ever coming. They are holding on their steady course. Each day which passes, they advance a day closer upon the sinner. People put out of their minds what “will come;” they “put far the evil day.” Therefore, God so often in His notices of woe to come, (1 Samuel 2:31; Isaiah 39:6; Jeremiah 7:32; Jeremiah 9:25; Jeremiah 17:14; Jeremiah 19:6; Jeremiah 23:5, Jeremiah 23:7; Jeremiah 30:3; Jeremiah 31:27-31, Jeremiah 31:38; Jeremiah 33:14; Jeremiah 48:12; Jeremiah 49:2; Jeremiah 51:47, Jeremiah 51:52. (Ges.); Amos 8:11), brings to mind, that those “days are” ever “coming” ; they are not a thing which shall be only; in God’s purpose, they already “are;” and with one uniform steady noiseless tread “are coming upon” the sinner. Those “days shall come upon you,” heavily charged with the displeasure of God, crushing you, as ye have crushed the poor. They come doubtless, too, unexpectedly upon them, as our Lords says, “and so that day come upon you unwares.”

He (that is one) will take you away - In the midst of their security, they should on a sudden be taken away violently from the abode of their luxury, as the fish, when hooked, is lifted out of the water. The image pictures (see Habakkuk 1:15; Ezekiel 29:4-5,) their utter helplessness, the contempt in which they would be had, the ease with which they would be lifted out of the flood of pleasures in which they had immersed themselves. People can be reckless, at last, about themselves, so that their posterity escape, and they themselves survive in their offspring. Amos foretells, then, that these also should be swept away.

Verse 3

Ye shall go out through the breaches - Samaria, the place of their ease and confidence, being broken through, they should go forth one by one, “each straight before her,” looking neither to the right nor to the left, as a herd of cows go one after the other through a gap in a fence. Help and hope have vanished, and they hurry pell-mell after one another, reckless and desperate, as the animals whose life of sense they had chosen.

And ye shall cast them into the palace - Or, better, (since nothing has been named which they could cast) “cast yourselves.” The word may describe the headlong motion of the animal, and the desperate gestures of the hopeless. They should cast themselves from palace to palace, from the palace of their luxuries to the palace of their enemies, from a self-chosen life of sensuousness to he concubines in the harem. If the rulers are still included, it was reserved for the rich and noble to become eunuchs in the palace of their Assyrian or Babylonian conquerors, as Isaiah foretold to Hezekiah Isaiah 39:7. It is another instance of that great law of God, “wherewithal a man sinneth, by the same shall he be tormented” (Wisdom Isaiah 11:16). They had lived in luxury and wantonness; in luxury and wantonness they should live, but amid the jealousies of an Eastern harem, and at the caprice of their sensual conquerors.

The word however rendered, “to the palace,” occurring only here, is obscure. The other most probable conjecture is, that it is a name of a country, “the mountains of Monah,” that is, perhaps Armenia. This would describe accurately enough the country to which they were to be carried; “beyond Damascus; the cities of the Medes.” The main sense is the same. They should be cast forth from the scene of their pleasures and oppression, to be themselves oppressed. The whole image is one, which an inspired prophet alone could use. The reproof was not from man, but from God, unveiling their sins to them in their true hideousness. Man thinks nothing of being more degraded than the brutes, so that he can hide from himself, that he is so.

Verse 4

Come to Beth-el and transgress - Having foretold their captivity, the prophet tries irony. But his irony is in bidding them go on to do, what they were doing earnestly, what they were set upon doing, and would not be withdrawn from. As Micaiah in irony, until adjured in the name of God, joined Ahab’s court-priests, bidding, him “go to Ramoth-Gilead” 1 Kings 22:15, where he was to perish; or Elijah said to the priests of Baal, “Cry aloud, for he is a god” 1 Kings 18:27; or our Lord, “Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers” Matthew 23:32; so Amos bids them do all they did, in their divided service of God, but tells them that to multiply all such service was to multiply transgression. Yet they were diligent in their way. Their offerings were daily, as at Jerusalem; the tithes of the third year for the poor was paid, as God had ordained Deuteronomy 14:28; Deuteronomy 26:12. They were punctual in these parts of the ritual, and thought much of their punctuality.

So well did they count themselves to stand with God, that there is no mention of sin offering or trespass offering. Their sacrifices were “sacrifics of thanksgiving” and “free will offerings,” as if out of exuberance of devotion, such as David said that Zion would “offer,” when God had been “favorable and gracious unto” her Psalms 51:18-19. These things they did; they “proclaimed” and “published” them, like the hypocrites whom our Lord reproves, “sounding a trumpet before them” Matthew 6:2 when they did alms; proclaiming these private offerings, as God bade proclaim the solemn assemblies. “For so ye love.” They did it, because they liked it, and it cost them nothing, for which they cared. It was more than most Christians will sacrifice, two fifteenths of their yearly income, if they gave the yearly tithes, which were to be shared with the poor also. But they would not sacrifice what God, above all, required, the fundamental breach of God’s law, on which their kingdom rested, “the sin which Jeroboam made Israel to sin.” They did what they liked; they were pleased with it, and they had that pleasure for their only reward, as it is of all which is not done for God.

Verse 5

And offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven - But amid this boastful service, all was self-will. In little or great, the calf-worship at Bethel, or the use of leaven in the sacrifice, they did as they willed. The prophet seems to have joined purposely the fundamental change, by which Jeroboam substituted the worship of nature for its God, and a minute alteration of the ritual, to show that one and the same temper, self-will, reigned in all, dictated all they did. The use of leaven in the things sacrificed was forbidden, out of a symbolic reason, that is, not in itself, but as representing something else. The Eastern leaven, like that used in France, consisting of what is sour, had the idea of decay and corruption connected with it. Hence, it was unfit to be offered to God. For whatever was the object of any sacrifice, whether of atonement or thanksgiving, perfection in its kind was essential to the idea of offering. Hence, it was expressly forbidden. “No meat offering, which ye shall bring unto the Lord, shall be made with leaven, for ye shall burn no leaven in an offering of the Lord made by fire” (Leviticus 2:11; add. Leviticus 6:17). At other times it is expressly commanded, that “unleavened bread” should be used. In two cases only, in which the offering was not to be burned, were offerings to be made of leavened bread:

(1) the two loaves of first-fruits at Pentecost Leviticus 23:17, and

(2) an offering with which the thank offering was accompanied, and which was to be the priest’s Leviticus 7:13-14.

The special meat offering of the thank offering was to be without leaven Leviticus 7:12. To “offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven” was a direct infringement of God’s appointment. It proceeded from the same frame of mind, as the breach of the greatest. Self-will was their only rule. What they willed, they kept; and what they willed, they brake. Amos bids them then go on, as they did in their willfulness, breaking God’s commands of set purpose, and keeping them by accident.

Rup.: “This is a most grave mode of speaking, whereby He now saith, ‘Come and do so and so, and He Himself who saith this, hateth those same deeds of theirs. He so speaketh, not as willing, but as abandoning not as inviting, but as expelling; not in exhortation but in indignation. He subjoins then, (as the case required,) ‘for so ye loved.’ As if He said, ‘I therefore say, ‘come to Bethel’ where is your god, your calf, because ‘so ye loved,’ and hitherto ye have come. I therefore say, ‘transgress,’ because ye do transgress, and ye will to transgress. I say, ‘come to Gilgal,’ where were idols (Judges 3:19, English margin) long before Jeroboam’s calves, because ye come and ye will to come. I say, ‘multiply transgressions,’ because ye do multiply it, and yet will to multiply it. I say, ‘bring your sacrifices,’ because ye offer them and ye will to offer them, to whom ye ought not. I say, ‘offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven,’ because ye so do, and ye will do it, leavened as ye are with ‘the old leaven of malice and wickedness,’ against the whole authority of the holy and spiritual law, which forbiddeth to offer in sacrifice anything leavened.

This pleaseth your gods, that ye be leavened, and without ‘the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth’ 1 Corinthians 5:8. To them then ‘sacrifice the sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven,’ because to Me ye, being sinners, cannot offer a seemly sacrifice of praise. And so doing, ‘proclaim and publish the free offerings,’ for so ye do, and so ye will to do, honoring the sacrifices which ye offer to your calves with the same names, whereby the authority of the law nameth those which are offered unto Me; ‘burnt offerings,’ and ‘peace offerings;’ and ‘proclaim’ them ‘with the sound of trumpet and harp, with timbrel and dancing, with strings and organ, upon the well turned cymbals and the loud cymbals’ Psalms 150:1-6, that so ye may be thought to have sung louder and stronger than the tribe of Judah or the house of David in the temple of the Lord, because ye are more.’ All these things are said, not with the intention of one willing, but with the indignation of one forsaking, as in many other instances. As that which the same Lord said to His betrayer; ‘what thou doest, do quickly’ John 13:27. And in the Revelations we read, ‘He that is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still’ Revelation 22:11. These things, and the rest of the like sort, are not the words of one commanding, or, of His own Will, conceding, but permitting and forsaking. ‘For He was not ignorant, (Wisdom saith) (Wisdom Revelation 12:10) that they were a naughty generation, and their malice was inbred, and that their cogitation never would be changed. ‘“

Proclaim and publish the free offerings - o: “Account much of what ye offer to God, and think that ye do great things, as though ye honored God condignly, and were under no obligation to offer such gifts. The whole is said in irony. For some there are, who appreciate magnificently the gifts and services which they offer to God, and think they have attained to great perfection, as though they made an adequate return to the divine benefits, not weighing the infinite dignity of the Divine Majesty, the incomparable greatness of the divine benefits, the frailty of their own condition and the imperfection of their service. Against whom is that which the Saviour saith, ‘When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants, we have done that which was our duty to do’ Luke 17:10. Hence, David saith ‘all things come of Thee, and of Thine own have we given Thee.’ 1 Chronicles 19:14.”

Verse 6

And I, I too have given you - Such had been their gifts to God, worthless, because destitute of that which alone God requires of His creatures, a loving, simple, single-hearted, loyal obedience. So then God had but one gift which He could bestow, one only out of the rich storehouse of His mercies, since all besides were abused - chastisement. Yet this too is a great gift of God, a pledge of His love, who willed not that they should perish; an earnest of greater favors, had they used it. It is a great gift of God, that He should care for us, so as to chasten us. The chastisements too were no ordinary chastisements, but those which God forewarned in the law, that He would send, and, if they repented, He would, amid the chastisements, forgive. This famine God had sent everywhere, “in all their cities,” and “in all their places,” great and small. Israel thought that its calves, that is, nature, gave them these things. “She did not know,” God saith, “that I gave her corn and wine and oil;” but said, “These are my rewards that my lovers have given me” Hosea 2:8, Hosea 2:12. In the powers and operations of “nature,” they forgat the God and Author of nature. It was then the direct corrective of this delusion, that God withheld those powers and functions of nature. So might israel learn, if it would, the vanity of its worship, from its fruitlessness. Some such great famines in the time of Elijah and Elisha 1 Kings 17:0; 1 Kings 18:0; 2 Kings 8:1-6 Scripture records; but it relates them, only when God visibly interposed to bring, or to remove, or to mitigate them. Amos here speaks of other famines, which God sent, as He foretold in the law, but which produced no genuine fruits of repentance.

And ye returned not unto Me - He says not, that they “returned not at all,” but that they “returned not wholly, quite back to God” . Nay the emphatic saying, “ye did not return quite to Me,” so as to reach Me, implies that they did, after a fashion, return. Israel’s worship was a half, halting 1 Kings 18:21, worship. But a half-worship is no worship; a half-repentance is no repentance; repentance for one sin or one set of sins is no repentance, unless the soul repent of all which it can recall wherein it displeased its God. God does not half-forgive; so neither must man half-repent. Yet of its one fundamental sin, the worship of nature for God, Israel would not repent. And so, whatever they did was not that entire repentance, upon which God, in the law, had promised forgiveness; repentance which stopped short of nothing but God.

Verse 7

And I, I too have withholden the rain - Jerome, dwelling in Palestine, says, that “this rain, when “three months yet remained until harvest,” was the “latter rain,” of the very greatest necessity for the fields of Palestine and the thirsty ground, lest, when the blade is swelling into the crop, and gendering the wheat, it should dry up through lack of moisture. The time intended is the spring, at the end of April, whence, to the wheat-harvest, there remain three months, May, June, July.” “God withheld the rain that they might endure, not only lack of bread, but burning thirst and penury of drink also. For in these places, where we now live, all the water, except small fountains, is of cisterns; and if the wrath of God should withhold the rain, there is greater peril of thirst than of hunger, such its Scripture relates to have endured for three years and six months in the days of the prophet Elijah. And lest they should think that this had befallen their cities and people, by a law of nature, or the influence of the stars, or the variety of the seasons, He says, that He rained upon one city and its fields, and from another withheld the rain.”

This was a second visitation of God. First, a general famine, “in all their cities;” secondly, a discriminating visitation. “Nature” possesses no discrimination or power over her supplies. Seeming waste is one of the mysteries of God in nature, “to cause it to rain on the earth” Job 38:26 where “no man” is; on “the wilderness wherein” there, “is no man.” Ordinarily too, God “maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” Matthew 5:45. But God does not enslave Himself, (as people would have it) to His own laws. Amos appeals to them, that God had dealt with them, not according to His ordinary laws; that not only God had given to one city the rain which he had withheld from another, but that He had made the same difference as to smaller “pieces” of ground, the inherited “portions” of individuals . Some such variations have been observed in Palestine now. But this would have been no indication of God’s Providence, had not the consciences of people responded to the prophet’s appeal, and recognized that the rain had been given or withheld according to the penitence or impenitence, the deeper or more mitigated idolatry, the greater or less sinfulness of the people. We have. then, in these few words a law of God’s dealing with Israel. God, in His word, reveals to us the meaning of His daily variations in the workings of nature; yet, hardly even in such instances, as people can scarcely elude, do they think of God the Creator, rather than of nature, His creation.

Verse 8

Two or three cities wandered into one city - Those then who were punished, were more than those who were reprieved. The word “wandered” literally, “trembled,” expresses the unsteady reeling gate of those exhausted, in quest of food . They staggered through weakness, and uncertain, amid the general drought, whither to betake themselves. This was done, not in punishment but to heal. God paused, in order to give them opportunity to repent; in deed, His long-suffering only showed to themselves and to others, that they would not; “and ye returned not not Me; saith the Lord.”

Verse 9

I have smitten you with blasting - Literally, “an exceeding scorching,” such as the hot east wind produced, and “an exceeding mildew,” a blight, in which the ears turn untimely a pale yellow, and have no grain. Both words are doubly intensive. They stand together in the prophecy of Moses Deuteronomy 28:22, among the other scourges of disobedience; and the mention of these would awaken, in those who would hear, the memory of a long train of other warnings and other judgments.

When your gardens ... increased - Better, as English margin. “the multitude of your gardens.” The garden of the east united the orchard Job 8:16; Song of Solomon 4:13-14; Song of Solomon 6:11, herb Deuteronomy 11:10; Song of Solomon 4:14; Song of Solomon 6:2, and flower garden. It comprised what was necessary for use as well as what was fragrant. It furnished part of their support Amos 9:14; Jeremiah 29:5, Jeremiah 29:28. Its trees Ecclesiastes 2:6, as well as the garden (Song of Solomon 4:15; Ecclus. 24:30) generally, being mostly watered artificially, it was beyond the reach of ordinary drought. The tree, “planted by the channels of waters” (Psalms 1:3; Jeremiah 17:8; add Isaiah 58:11; Jeremiah 31:12, contrariwise Isaiah 1:30), was an image of abiding freshness and fertility, Yet neither would these escape God’s sentence. On these He sent the locusts, which, in a few hours - all leaves - flower, herb or tree, are as dead (see the note at Joel 1:7).

Verse 10

I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt - that is, after the way in which God had dealt with Egypt . God had twice promised, when the memory of the plagues which He sent on Egypt was still fresh “if thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God - I will put none of the diseases upon thee which I have brought upon the Egyptians” Exodus 15:26; Deuteronomy 7:15. Contrariwise, God had forewarned them in that same prophecy of Moses, that, if they disobeyed Him, “He will bring upon thee all the diseases of Egypt which thou was afraid of, and they shall cleave unto thee” (Deuteronomy 28:60, add Deuteronomy 28:27). Egypt was, at times, subject to great visitations of the plague ; it is said to be its birthplace . Palestine was by nature healthy. Hence, and on account of the terribleness of the scourge, God so often speaks of it, as of His own special sending. He had threatened in the law; “I will sold a pestilence upon you” Leviticus 26:25; “the Lord thy God will make the pestilence cleave unto you” Deuteronomy 28:21. Jeremiah says to the false prophet Hananiah; “The prophets that have been before me and before thee of old prophesied both against many countries and against great kingdoms, of war and of evil and of pestilence” Jeremiah 28:8. Amos bears witness that those visitations came. Jeremiah Jeremiah 14:12; Jeremiah 29:17-18; Jeremiah 34:17 and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 5:12; Ezekiel 6:11, etc.) prophesied them anew, together with the sword and with famine. Israel, having sinned like Egypt, was to be punished like Egypt.

And have taken away your horses - Literally, as English margin. “with the captivity of your horses.” After famine, drought, locust, pestilence, followed that worst scourge of all, that through man. The possessions of the plain of Jezreel, so well suited for cavalry, probably induced israel to break in this respect the law of Moses. Hazael “left to Jehoahaz but 50 horsemen and 10 chariots and 10,000 footmen, for the king of Syria had destroyed them, and had made them like the dust by threshing.” Their armies, instead of being a defense, lay unburied on the ground, a fresh source of pestilence.

Verse 11

I have overthrown some of you - The earthquake is probably reserved to the last, as being the rarest, and so the most special, visitation. Frequent as earthquakes have been on the borders of Palestine, the greater part of Palestine was not on the line, which was especially shaken by them. The line, chiefly visited by earthquakes, was along the coast of the Mediterranean or parallel to it, chiefly from Tyre to Antioch and Aleppo. Here were the great historical earthquakes, which were the scourges of Tyre, Sidon, Beirut, Botrys, Tripolis, Laodicea on the sea; which shattered Litho-prosopon, prostrated Baalbek and Hamath, and so often afflicted Antioch and Aleppo , while Damascus was mostly spared .

Eastward it may have reached to Safed, Tiberias, and the Hauran. Ar-Moab perished by an earthquake in the childhood of Jerome . But, at least, the evidence of earthquakes, except perhaps in the ruins of the Hauran , is slighter. Earthquakes there have been (although fewer) at Jerusalem. Yet on the whole, it seems truer to say that the skirts of Palestine were subject to destructive earthquakes, than to affirm this of central Palestine .

The earthquake must have been all the more terrible, because it was unprecedented. One or more terrible earthquakes, overthrowing cities, must have been sent, before that, on occasion of which Amos collected his prophecies. For his prophecies were uttered “two years before” that “earthquake;” and this earthquake had preceded his prophecy. “I overthrew,” God says, “among you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.” He uses the word, especially used by Moses and the prophets of that dread overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, when they were turned, as it were, upside down. The earthquake is at all times the more mysterious, because unseen, unannounced, unlooked for, instantaneous, complete. The ground under a man’s feet seems no longer secure: his shelter is his destruction; men’s houses become their graves. Whole cities must have been utterly overthrown, for He compares the overthrow worked among them, to the overthrow of “the cities of the plain.” Other visitations have heralds sent before them. War, pestilence, famine, seldom break in at once. The earthquake at once, buries, it may be, thousands or tens of thousands, each stiffened (if it were so) in that his last deed of evil; each household with its own form of misery; each in its separate vault, dead, dying, crushed, imprisoned; the remnant indeed “surviving,” for most whom they loved were gone. So he says;

And ye, who escaped, were as a firebrand, plucked out of the burning - Once it had been green, fresh, fragrant, with leaf or flower; now scorched, charred, blackened, all but consumed. In itself, it was fit for nothing, but to be cast back into the fire from where it had been rescued. Man would so deal with it. A re-creation alone could restore it. Slight emblem of a soul, whose freshness sin had withered, then God’s severe judgment had half-consumed; in itself, meet only for the everlasting fire, from which yet God withdraws it.

Verse 12

Therefore thus will I do unto thee - God says more by His silence. He had enumerated successive scourges. Now, with His hand uplifted to strike, He mentions none, but says, “thus.” Rib.: “So men too, loth to name evils, which they fear and detest, say, “God do so to me, and more also.” God using the language of people” Jerome, “having said, ‘thus will I do unto thee,’ is silent as to what He will do; that so, Israel hanging in suspense, as having before him each sort of punishment (which are the more terrible, because he imagines them one by one), may indeed repent, that God inflict not what He threatens.”

Prepare to meet thy God - In judgment, face to face, final to them. All the judgments which had been sent hitherto were but heralds, forerunners of the judgment to come. He Himself was not in them. In them, He passed no sentence upon Israel. They were medicinal, corrective; they were not His final sentence. Now, having tried all ways of recovering them in vain, God summons them before His tribunal. But although the judgment of the ten tribes, as a whole, was final, to individuals there was place for repentance. God never, in this life, bids people or individuals “prepare to meet Him,” without a purpose of good to those who do prepare to receive His sentence aright. He saith not then, “come and hear your doom,” but “prepare to meet thy God.” It has hope in it, to be bidden to “prepare;” yet more, that He whom they were to prepare to meet, was “their God.” It must have recurred full often to the mind of the ten tribes during their unrestored captivity of above seven centuries before the Coming of our Lord; a period as long as the whole existence of Rome from its foundation to its decay; as long as our history from our king Stephen until now.

Full oft must they have thought, “we have not met Him yet,” and the thought must have dawned upon them; “It is because He willed to “do thus” with us, that He bid us “prepare to meet” Him. He met us not, when He did it. It was then something further on; it is in the Messiah that we arc to meet and to see Him.” Jerome: “Prepare to meet thy God,” receiving with all eagerness the Lord coming unto thee.” So then, is this further sense which lay in a the words , “he (as did Hosea at the end) exhorts the ten tribes, after they had been led captive by the Assyrians, not to despond, but to “prepare to meet their God,” that is, to acknowledge and receive Christ their God, when the Gospel should be preached to them by the Apostles.” Rib.: “God punisheth, not in cruelty, but in love. He warns then those whom He strikes, to understand what He means by these punishments, not thinking themselves abandoned by God, but, even when they seem most cast away and reprobate, rousing themselves, in the hope of God’s mercy through Christ, to call upon God, and “prepare to meet their God.” For no one’s salvation is so desperate, no one is so stained with every kind of sin, but that God cometh to him by holy inspirations, to bring back the wanderer to Himself. Thou therefore, O Israel, whoever thou art, who didst once serve God, and now servest vilest pleasures, when thou feelest God coming to thee, prepare to meet Him. Open the door of thy heart to that most kind and benevolent Guest, and, when thou hearest His Voice, deafen not thyself: flee not, like Adam. For He seeketh thee, not to judge, but to save thee.”

Verse 13

For lo, He that formeth the mountains - Their God whom they worshiped was but nature. Amos tells them, who “their God” is, whom they were to prepare to meet. He describes Him as the Creator of that, which to man seems most solid, to go furthest back in times past. Before the everlasting mountains were, God is, for He made them. Yet God is not a Creator in the past alone. He is a continual Worker. “And formeth the wind,” that finest subtlest creature, alone invisible in this visible world; the most immaterial of things material, the breath of our life, the image of man’s created immaterial spirit, or even of God’s uncreated presence, the mildest and the most terrific of the agents around us. But the thought of God, as a Creator or Preserver without, affects man but little. To man, a sinner, far more impressive than all majesty of Creative power, is the thought that God knows his inmost soul. So he adds; “and declareth unto man what is his thought,” that is, his meditation, before he puts it into words. God knows our thoughts more truly than we ourselves. We disguise them to ourselves, know not our own hearts, wish not to know them. God reveals us to ourselves. As He says, “The heart is deceitful above all things; who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart; I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways and according to the fruit of his doings” Jeremiah 17:9-10. Man’s own conscience tells him that God’s knowledge of His inmost self is no idle knowledge. “If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart and knoweth all things” 1 John 3:20.

That maketh the morning darkness - If the light become darkness, how great that darkness! From the knowledge of man’s heart, the prophet goes on to retribution. Morning is the symbol of all which is beautiful, cheering, radiant, joyous to man; darkness effaces all these. Their God, he tells them, can do all this. He can quench in gloom all the magnificent beauty of His own creation and make all which gladdened the eyes of man, “one universal blot.” “And treadeth upon the high places of the earth.” He “treadeth” them, to tread them under. He humbleth all which exalteth itself. “God walketh, when He worketh. He is without all, within all, containeth all, worketh all in all. Hence, it is said, “He walketh on the wings of the wind Psalms 104:3; He walketh on the heights of the sea Job 9:8; He walketh on the circuit of heaven” Job 22:14.

Such was He, who made Himself “their God,” The Author of all, the Upholder of all, the Subduer of all which exalted itself, who stood in a special relation to man’s thoughts, and who punished. At His command stand all the hosts of heaven. Would they have Him for them, or against them? Would they be at peace with Him, before they met Him, face to face?

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Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Amos 4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.