Bible Commentaries
Amos 9

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

Verse 1

I saw the Lord - He saw God in vision; yet God no more, as before, asked him what he saw. God no longer shows him emblems of the destruction, but the destruction itself. Since Amos had just been speaking of the idolatry of Samaria, as the ground of its utter destruction, doubtless this vision of such utter destruction of the place of worship, with and upon the worshipers, relates to those same idolaters and idoltries . True, the condenmation of Israel would become the condemnation of Judah, when Judah’s sins, like Israel’s, should become complete. But directly, it can hardly relate to any other than those spoken of before and after, Israel. “The altar,” then, “over” which Amos sees God “stand,” is doubtless the altar on which Jeroboam sacrificed, “the altar” which he set up over-against the altar at Jerusalem, the center of the calf-worship, whose destruction the man of God foretold on the day of its dedication.

There where, in counterfeit of the sacrifices which God had appointed, they offered would-be-atoning sacrifices and sinned in them, God appeared, standing, to behold, to judge, to condemn. “And He said, smite the lintel,” literally, “the chapter,” or “capital,” probably so called from “crowning” the pillar with a globular form, like a pomegranate. This, the spurious outward imitation of the true sanctuary, God commands to be stricken, “that the posts,” or probably “the thresholds, may shake.” The building was struck from above, and reeled to its base. It does not matter, whether any blow on the capital of a pillar would make the whole fabric to shake. For the blow was no blow of man. God gives the command probably to the Angel of the Lord, as, in Ezekiel’s vision of the destruction of Jerusalem, the charge to destroy was given to six men Ezekiel 9:2. So the first-born of Egypt, the army of Sennacherib, were destroyed by an Angel Exodus 12:23; 2 Kings 19:34-35. An Angel stood with his sword over Jerusalem 2 Samuel 24:1, 2 Samuel 24:15-16, when God punished David’s presumption in numbering the people. At one blow of the heavenly Agent the whole building shook, staggered, fell.

And cut them in the head, all of them - o This may be either by the direct agency of the Angel, or the temple itself may be represented as falling on the heads of the worshipers. As God, through Jehu, destroyed all the worshipers of Baal in the house of Baal, so here He foretells, under a like image, the destruction of all the idolaters of Israel. He had said, “they that swear by the sin of Samaria - shall fall and never rise up again.” Here he represents the place of that worship the idolaters, as it seems, crowded there, and the command given to destroy them all. All Israel was not to be destroyed. “Not the least grain” was to “fall upon the earth Amos 9:9. Those then here represented as destroyed to the last man, must be a distinct class. Those destroyed in the temple must be the worshipers in the temple. In the Temple of God at Jerusalem, none entered except the priests. Even the space “between the porch and the altar” was set apart for the priests. But heresy is necessarily irreverent, because, not worshiping the One God, it had no Object of reverence. Hence, the temple of Baal was full “from end to end 2 Kings 10:21, and the worshipers of the sun at Jerusalem turned “their backs toward the Temple,” and “worshiped the sun toward the east, at the door of the Temple, between the porch and the altar” Ezekiel 8:16; Ezekiel 11:1. The worshipers of the calves were commanded to “kiss” Hosea 13:2 them, and so must have filled the temple, where they were.

And I will slay the last of them - The Angel is bidden to destroy those gatered in open idolatry in one place. God, by His Omniscience, reserved the rest for His own judgment. All creatures, animate or inanimate, rational or irrational, stand at His command to fulfill His will. The mass of idolaters having perished in their idolatry, the rest, not crushed in the fall of the temple, would fain flee away, but “he that fleeth shall not flee,” God says, to any good “to themselves;” yea, although they should do what for man is impossible, they should not escape God.

Verse 2

Height or depth are alike open to the Omnipresent God. The grave is not so awful as God. The sinner would gladly “dig through” into hell, bury himself, the living among the dead, if so he could escape the sight of God. But thence, God says, “My hand shall take them,” to place them in His presence, to receive their sentence. Or if, like the rebel angels, they could “place” their “throne amid the stars Isaiah 14:12-14 of God thence will I bring them down,” humbling, judging, condemning.

Verse 3

He had contrasted heaven and hell, as places impossible for man to reach; as I David says, “If I ascend into heaven, Thou art there: If l make my bed in hell, behold Thee” Psalms 139:8. Now, of places in a manner accessible, he contrasts Mount Carmel, which rises abruptly out of the sea, with depths of that ocean which it overhangs. Carmel was in two ways a hiding place.

1) Through its caves (some say 1,000 , some 2,000) with which it is perforated, whose entrance sometimes scarcely admits a single man; so close to each other, that a pursuer would not discern into which the fugitive had vanished; so serpentine within, that, “10 steps apart,” says a traveler , “we could hear each others’ voices, but could not see each other.” : “Carmel is perforated by a hundredfold greater or lesser clefts. Even in the garb of loveliness and richness, the majestic Mount, by its clefts, caves, and rocky battlements, excites in the wanderer who sees them for the first time, a feeling of mingled wonder and fear. A whole army of enemies, as of nature’s terrors, could hide themselves in these rock-clefts.”

2) Its summit, about 1800 feet above the sea , “is covered with pines and oaks, and lower down with olive and laurel trees” . These forests furnished hiding places to robberhordes at the time of our Lord. In those caves, Elijah probably at times was hidden from the persecution of Ahab and Jezebel. It seems to be spoken of as his abode 1 Kings 18:19, as also one resort of Elishas 2 Kings 2:25; 2 Kings 4:25. Carmel, as the western extremity of the land, projecting into the sea, was the last place which a fugitive would reach. If he found no safety there, there was none in his whole land. Nor was there by sea;

And though they be hid - (rather, “hide themselves”) from My sight in the bottom of the sea, thence will I command the serpent The sea too has its deadly serpents. Their classes are few; the individuals in those classes are much more numerous than those of the land-serpents . Their shoals have furnished to sailors tokens of approaching land . Their chief abode, as traced in modern times, is between the Tropics .

The ancients knew of them perhaps in the Persian gulf or perhaps the Red Sea . All are “highly venomous” and “very ferocious.” : “The virulence of their venom is equal to that of the “most” pernicious land-serpents.” All things, with their will or without it through animal instinct, as the serpent, or their savage passions, as the Assyrian, fulfill the will of God. As, at His command, the fish whom He had prepared, swallowed Jonah, for his preservation, so, at His “command, the serpent” should come forth from the recesses of the sea to the sinner’s greater suffering.

Verse 4

Captivity - , at least, seemed safe. The horrors of war are over. Men enslave, but do not commonly destroy those whom they have once been at the pains to carry captive. Amos describes them in their misery, as “going” willingly, gladly, “into captivity before their enemies,” like a flock of sheep. Yet “thence” too, out of “the captivity,” God would command the sword, and it should slay them. So God had forewarned them by Moses, that captivity should be an occasion, not an end, of slaughter. “I will scatter you among the pagan, and will draw out a sword after you” Leviticus 26:33. “And among these nations shalt thou find no ease - and thy life shall hang in doubt before thee, and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life” Deuteronomy 28:65-66. The book of Esther shows how cheaply the life of a whole nation was held by Eastern conquerors; and the book of Tobit records, how habitually Jews were slain and cast out unburied (Tobit 1:17; 2:3). The account also that Sennacherib (Tobit 1:18) avenged the loss of his army, and “in his wrath killed many,” is altogether in the character of Assyrian conquerors. Unwittingly he fulfilled the command of God, “I will command the sword and it shall slay them.”

I will set mine eyes upon them for evil - So David says, “The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers. The face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to root out the remembrance of them from off the earth” Psalms 34:15-16. The Eye of God rests on each creature which He hath made, as entirely as if He had created it alone. Every moment is passed in His unvarying sight. But, as man “sets his eye” on man, watching him and with purpose of evil, so God’s Eye is felt to be on man in displeasure, when sorrow and calamity track him and overtake him, coming he knows not how in unlooked-for ways and strange events. The Eye of God upon us is our whole hope and stay and life. It is on the Confessor in prison, the Martyr on the rack, the poor in their sufferings, the mourner in the chamber of death, for good. What when everywhere that Eye, the Source of all good, rests on His creature only for evil! “and not for good,” he adds; “not,” as is the wont and the Nature of God; “not,” as He had promised, if they were faithful; “not,” as perhaps they thought, “for good.” He utterly shuts out all hope of good. It shall be all evil, and no good, such as is hell.

Verse 5

And who is He who should do this? God, at whose command are all creatures. This is the hope of His servants; from where Hezekiah begins his prayer, “Lord of hosts, God of Israel” Isaiah 37:16. This is the hopelessness of His enemies. “That toucheth the land” or “earth, and it shall melt,” rather, “hath melted.” His Will and its fulfillment are one. “He spake, and it was; He commanded and it stood fast” Psalms 33:9. His Will is first, as the cause of what is done; in time they co-exist. He hath no need to put forth His strength; a touch, the slightest indication of His Will, sufficeth. If the solid earth, how much more its inhabitants! So the Psalmist says, “The pagan raged, the kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted” Psalms 46:6. The hearts of men melt when they are afraid of His presence; human armies melt away, dispersed; the great globe itself shall dissolve into its ancient chaos at His Will.

Verse 6

He that buildeth His stories - The word commonly means “steps,” nor is there any reason to alter it. We read of “the third heavens 2 Corinthians 12:2, the heavens of heavens Deuteronomy 10:14; 1 Kings 8:27; Psalms 148:4; that is, heavens to which this heaven is as earth. They are different ways of expressing the vast unseen space which God has created, divided, as we know, through the distance of the fixed stars, into countless portions, of which the lower, or further removed, are but as “steps” to the presence of the Great King, where, “above all heavens” Ephesians 4:10, Christ sitteth at the Right Hand of God. It comes to the same, if we suppose the word to mean “upper chambers.” The metaphor would still signify heavens above our heavens.

And hath founded His troop - (literally, band in the earth Probably, “founded His arch upon the earth,” that is, His visible heaven, which seems, like an arch, to span the earth. The whole then describes” all things visible and invisible;” all of this our solar system, and all beyond it, the many gradations to the Throne of God. : “He daily “buildeth His stories in the heavens,” when He raiseth up His saints from things below to heavenly places, presiding over them, ascending in them. In devout wayfarers too, whose “conversation is in heaven Philippians 3:20, He ascendeth, sublimely and mercifully indwelling their hearts. In those who have the fruition of Himself in those heavens, He ascendeth by the glory of beatitude and the loftiest contemplation, as He walketh in those who walk, and resteth in those who rest in Him.”

To this description of His power, Amos, as before Amos 5:8, adds that signal instance of its exercise on the ungodly, the flood, the pattern and type of judgments which no sinner escapes. God then hath the power to do this. Why should He not?

Verse 7

Are ye not as children of the Ethiopians unto Me, O children of Israel! - Their boast and confidence was that they were children of the patriarch, to whom God made the promises. But they, not following the faith nor doing the deeds of Israel, who was a “prince with God,” or of Abraham, the father of the faithful, had, for “Bene Israel,” children of Israel, become as “Bene Cushiim, children of the Ethiopians,” descendants of Ham, furthest off from the knowledge and grace of God, the unchangeableness of whose color was an emblem of unchangeableness in evil. “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil” Jeremiah 13:23.

Have I not brought up - (Did I not bring up) Israel out of the land of Egypt? Amos blends in one their plea and God’s answer. God by bringing them up out of Egypt, pledged His truth to them to be their to protect and preserve them. True! so long as they. retained God as their God, and kept His laws. God chose them, that they might choose Him. By casting Him off, as their Lord and God, they cast themselves off and out of God’s protection. By estranging themselves from God, they became as strangers in His sight. His act in bringing them up from Egypt had lost its meaning for them. It became no more than any Other event in His Providence, by which He brought up “the Philistines from Caphtor,” who yet were aliens from Him, and “the Syrians from Kir,” who, He had foretold, should be carried back there.

This immigration of the Philistines from Caphtor must have taken place before the return of Israel from Egypt. For Moses says, “The Caphtorim, who came forth from Caphtor” had at this time “destroyed the Avvim who dwelt in villages unto Gazah, and dwelt in their stead” Deuteronomy 2:23 An entire change in their affairs had also taken place in the four centuries and a half since the days of Isaac. In the time of Abraham and Isaac, Philistia was a kingdom; its capital, Gerar. Its king had a standing army, Phichol being “the captain of the host” Genesis 21:22; Genesis 26:26 : he had also a privy councillor, Ahuzzath Genesis 26:26. From the time after the Exodus, Philistia had ceased to be a kingdom, Gerar disappears from history; the power of Philistia is concentrated in five new towns, Gaza, Ashdod, Askelon, Gath, Ekron, with five heads, who consult and act as one (see above, the note at Amos 1:6-8).

The Caphtorim are in some sense also distinct from the old Philistines. They occupy a district not co-extensive with either the old or the new land of the Philistines. In the time of Saul, another Philistine clan is mentioned, the Cherethite. The Amalekites made a marauding inroad into the south country of the Cherethites; 1 Samuel 30:14; which immediately afterward is called “the land of the Philistines” 1 Samuel 30:16. Probably then, there were different immigrations of the same tribe into Palestine, as there were different immigrations of Danes or Saxons into England, or as there have been and are from the old world into the new, America and Australia. They, were then all merged in one common name, as English, Scotch, Irish, are in the United States. The first immigration may have been that from the Casluhim, “out of whom came Philistim” Genesis 10:14; a second, from the Caphtorim, a kindred people, since they are named next to the Casluhim Genesis 10:14, as descendants of Mizraim. Yet a third were doubtless the Cherethim. But all were united under the one name of Philistines, as Britons, Danes, Saxons, Normans, are united under the one name of English. Of these immigrations, that from Caphtor, even if (as seems probable) second in time, was the chief; which agrees with the great accession of strength, which the Philistines had received at the time of the Exodus; from where the Mediterranean had come to be called by their name, “the sea of the Philistines” Exodus 23:31 : and, in Moses’ song of thanksgiving, “the inhabitants of Philistia” are named on a level with “all the inhabitants of Canaan” Exodus 15:14-15; and God led His people by the way of Mount Sinai, in order not to expose them at once to so powerful an enemy Exodus 13:17.

A third immigration of Cherethim, in the latter part of the period of the Judges, would account for the sudden increase of strength, which they seem then to have received. For whereas heretofore those whom God employed to chasten Israel in their idolatries, were Kings of Mesopotamia, Moab, Hazor, Midian, Amalek, and the children of the East Judg. 3–10:5, and Philistia had, at the beginning of the period, lost Gaza, Ashkelon, and Ekron Judges 1:18, to Israel, and was repulsed by Shamgar, thenceforth, to the time of David, they became the great scourge of Israel on the west of Jordan, as Ammon was on the east.

The Jewish traditions in the Septuagint, the Vulgate, and three Targums, agree that Caphtor was Cappadocia, which, in that it extended to the Black Sea, might be callad “I, seacoast,” literally, “habitable land, as contrasted with the sea which washed it, whether it surrounded it or no. The Cherethites may have come from Crete, as an intermediate resting place in their migrations.

Verse 8

Behold the eyes of the Lord are upon the sinful kingdom - The sinful kingdom may mean each “sinful kingdom,” as Paul says, God “will render unto every man according to his deeds - unto them who do not obey the truth but obey unrighteousness, tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile” Romans 2:6-9. His “Eyes” are “on the sinful kingdom,” whatsoever or wheresoever it be, and so on Israel also: “and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth.” In this case, the emphasis would be on the, “I will not “utterly” destroy.” God would destroy sinful kingdoms, yet Israel, although sinful, He would not “utterly” destroy, but would leave a remnant, as He had so often promised. Yet perhaps, and more probably, the contrast is between “the kingdom” and “the house of Israel. The kingdom,” being founded in sin, bound up inseparably with sin, God says, “I will destroy from off the face of the earth,” and it ceased forever. Only, with the kingdom, He says, “I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,” to whom were the promises, and to whose seed, whosoever were the true Israel, those promises should be kept. So He explains;

Verse 9

For lo! I will command! - Literally, “lo! see, I am commanding.” He draws their attention to it, as something which shall shortly be; and inculcates that He is the secret disposer of all which shall befall them. “And I will sift the house of Israel among all nations.” Amos enlarges the prophecy of Hosea, “they shall be wanderers among the nations.” He adds two thoughts; the violence with which they shall be shaken, and that this their unsettled life, to and fro, shall be not “among the nations” only, but “in all” nations. In every quarter of the world, and in well-nigh every nation in every quarter, Jews have been found. The whole earth is, as it were, one vast sieve in the Hands of God, in which Israel is shaken from one end to the other. There has been one ceaseless tossing to and fro, as the grain in the sieve is tossed from side to side, and rests nowhere, until all is sifted.

Each nation in whom they have been found has been an instrument of their being shaken, sifted, severed, the grain from the dirt and chaff; And yet in their whole compass, “not the least grain,” no solid grain, not one grain, should “fall to the earth.” The chaff and dust would be blown away by the air; the dirt which clave to it would fall through; but “no one grain.” God, in all these centuries, has had an eye on each soul of His people in their dispersion throughout all lands. The righteous too have been shaken up and down, through and through; yet not one soul has been lost, which, by the help of God’s Holy Spirit, willed truly and earnestly to be saved. Before Christ came, they who were His, believed in Him who should come; when He came, they who were His were converted to Him; as Paul saith, “Hath God cast away His people? God forbid! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin - God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew - At this present time also there is a remnant, according to the election of grace” Romans 11:1-2, Romans 11:5.

Rib.: “What is here said of all, God doth daily in each of the elect. For they are ‘the wheat” of God, which, in order to be “laid up in” the heavenly “garner,” must be pure from chaff and dust. To this end He sifts them by afflictions and troubles, in youth, manhood, old age, wheresoever they are, in whatsoever occupied, and proves them again and again. At one time the elect enjoyeth tranquility of mind, is bedewed by heavenly refreshments, prayeth as he wills, loveth, gloweth, hath no taste for ought except God. Then again he is dry, experienceth the heaven to be as brass, his prayer is hindered by distracting thoughts, his feet are as lead to deeds of virtue, his “hands bang down,” his “knees” are “feeble” Hebrews 12:12, he dreads death; he sticks fast, languishes. He is shaken in a sieve, that he may mistrust self, place his hope in God, and the dust of vain-glory may be shaken off. He is proved, that it may appear whether he cleave to God for the reward of present enjoyment, or for the hope of future, for longing for the glory of God and for love of Himself. God suffereth him also to be sifted by the devil through various temptations to sin, as he said to the Apostle, “Simon, lo! Satan hath desired you, to sift you as wheat” Luke 22:31. But this is the power of God, this His grace to the elect, this the devil attaineth by his sifting, that the dust of immoderate self love, of vain confidence, of love of the world, should fall off: this Satan effecteth not, that the least deed which pertaineth to the inward house and the dwelling which they prepare in their souls for God, should perish. Rather, as we see in holy Job, virtues will increase, grow, be strengthened.”

Verse 10

All the sinners of My people shall perish - At the last, when the longsuffering of God has been despised to the uttermost, His Providence is exact in His justice, as in His love. As not “one grain should fall to the earth,” so not one sinner should escape. Jerome: “Not because they sinned aforetime, but because they persevered in sin until death. The Aethiopians are changed into sons of God, if they repent; and the sons of God pass away into Aethiopians, if they fall into the depth of sin.”

Which say, The evil shall not overtake nor prevent us - Their security was the cause of their destruction. They perished the more miserably, being buoyed up by the false confidence that they should not perish. So it was in both destructions of Jerusalem. Of the first, Jeremiah says to the false prophet Hananiah, “Thus saith the Lord, Thou hast broken the yokes of wood; but thou shalt make for them yokes of iron” Jeremiah 28:13; and to Zedekiah, “Obey, I beseech thee, the voice of the Lord, which I speak unto thee; so shall it be well unto thee, and thy soul shall live. But if thou refuse to go forth - thou shalt not escape out of their hand, but shalt be taken by the hand of the king of Babylon, and thou shalt burn this city with fire” (Jeremiah 38:20, Jeremiah 38:23; add Jeremiah 27:9-10, Jeremiah 27:19). At the second, while thee Christians (mindful of our Lord’s words) fled to Pella, the Jews were, to the last, encouraged by their false prophets to resist. “The cause of this destruction,” at the burning of the temple, says their own historian , “was a false prophet, who on that day proclaimed to those in the city, ‘God commands to go up to the temple, to receive the signs of deliverance.’ There were too, at that time, among the people many prophets suborned by the tyrants, bidding them await the help from God, that they might not desert, and that hope might prevail with those, who were above fear and restraint. Man is soon persuaded in calamity. And when the deceiver promises release from the evils which are upon him, the sufferer gives himself wholly up to hope. These dcceivers then and liars against God at this time mispersuaded the wretched people, so that they neither regarded, nor believed, the plain evident prodigies, which foretokened the coming desolation, but, like men stupefied, who had neither eyes nor mind, disobeyed the warnings of God.” Then, having related some of the prodigies which occurred, he adds ; “But of these signs’ some they interpreted after their own will, some they despised, until they were convicted of folly by the capture of their country and their own destruction.”

So too now, none are so likely to perish forever, as they “who say, The evil shall not overtake us.” “I will repent hereafter.” “I will make my peace with God before I die.” “There is time enough yet.” “Youth is for pleasure, age for repentance.” “God will forgive the errors of youth, and the heat of our passions.” “Any time will do for repentance; health and strength promise long life;” “I cannot do without this or that now.” “I will turn to God, only not yet.” “God is merciful and full of compassion.” Because Satan thus deludes thousands upon thousands to their destruction, God cuts away all such vain hopes with His word, “All the sinners of My people shall die which say, the evil shall not overtake nor come upon us.”

Verse 11

In that day I will raise up - Amos, as the prophets were taught to do, sums up his prophecy of woe with this one full promise of overflowing good. For the ten tribes, in their separate condition, there was no hope, no future. He had pronounced the entire destruction of “the kingdom” of Israel. The ten tribes were, thenceforth, only an aggregate of individuals, good or bad. They had no separate corporate existence. In their spiritual existence, they still belonged to the one family of Israel; and, belonging to it, were heirs of the promises made to it. When no longer separate, individuals out of its tribes were to become Apostles to their whole people and to the Gentiles. Of individuals in it, God had declared His judgment, anticipating the complete exactness of the Judgment of the Great Day. “All the sinners of” His “people” should “die” an untimely death “by the sword;” not one of those who were the true grain should perish with the chaff.

He now foretells, how that salvation, of those indeed His own, should be effected through the house of David, in whose line Christ was to come. He speaks of the house of David, not in any terms of royal greatness; he tells, not of its palaces, but of its ruins. Under the word “tabernacle,” he probably blends the ideas, that it should be in a poor condition, and yet that it should be the means whereby God should protect His people. The “succah, tabernacle” (translated “booth” in Jonah) Jonah 4:5; Genesis 33:17, was originally a rude hut, formed of “intertwined” branches. It is used of the cattle-shed Genesis 33:17, and of the rough tents used by soldiers in war 2 Samuel 11:11, or by the watchman in the vineyard Isaiah 1:8; Job 27:18, and of those wherein God “made the children of Israel to dwell, when” He “brought them out of the land of Egypt Leviticus 23:43. The name of the feast of “tabernacles, Succoth,” as well as the rude temporary huts in which they were commanded to dwell, associated the name with a state of outward poverty under God’s protection.

Hence, perhaps, the word is employed also of the secret place of the presence of God Psalms 18:11; Job 36:29. Isaiah, as well as Amos, seems, in the use of the same word Isaiah 4:6, to hint that what is poor and mean in man’s sight would be, in the Hands of God, an effectual protection. This “hut of David” was also at that time to be “fallen.” When Amos prophesied, it had been weakened by the schism of the ten tribes, but Azariah, its king, was mighty 2 Chronicles 26:6-15. Amos had already foretold the destruction of the “palaces of Jerusalem by fire” Amos 2:5. Now he adds, that the abiding condition of the house of David should be a state of decay and weakness, and that from that state, not human strength, but God Himself should “raise” it. “I will raise up the hut of David, the fallen.” He does not say, of “that” time, “the hut that is fallen,” as if it were already fallen, but “the hut, the fallen,” that is, the hut of which the character should then be its falling, its caducity.

So, under a different figure, Isaiah prophesied, “There shall come forth a rod out of the stump Isaiah 11:1 of Jesse, and a Branch shall put forth from its roots.” When the trunk was hewn down even with the ground, and the rank grass had covered the “stump,” that “rod” and “Branch” should come forth which should rule the earth, and “to” which “the Gentiles should seek” Isaiah 11:10. From these words of Amos, “the Son of the fallen,” became, among the Jews, one of the titles of the Christ. Both in the legal and mystical schools the words of Amos are alleged, in proof of the fallen condition of the house of David, when the Christ should come. “Who would expect,” asks one , “that God would raise up the fallen tabernacle of David? and yet it is said, “I will raise up the tabernacle of David which is fallen down.” And who would hope that the whole world should become one band? as it is written, “Then I will turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one shoulder” Zephaniah 3:9. This is no other than the king Messiah.” And in the Talmud ; “R. Nachman said to R. Isaac; Hast thou heard when ‘the Son of the fallen’ shall come? He answered, Who is he? R. Nachman; The Messiah. R. Isaac; Is the Messiah so called? R. Nachman; Yes; ‘In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David which is fallen down. ‘“

And close up - Literally, “wall up, the breaches thereof.” The house of David had at this time sustained breaches. It had yet more serious breaches to sustain thereafter. The first great breach was the rending off of the ten tribes. It sustained breaches, through the Assyrians; and yet more when itself was carried away captive to Babylon, and so many of its residue fled into Egypt. Breaches are repaired by new stones; the losses of the house of David were to be filled up by accessions from the Gentiles. God Himself should “close up the breaches;” so should they remain closed; and “the gates of hell should not prevail against” the Church which He builded. Amos heaps upon one another the words implying destruction. A “hut” and that “falling; breaches; ruins;” (literally, “his ruinated, his destructions”). But he also speaks of it in a way which excludes the idea of “the hut of David,” being “the royal Dynasty” or “the kingdom of Judah.” For he speaks of it, not as an abstract thing, such as a kingdom is, but as a whole, consisting of individuals.

He speaks not only of “the hut of David,” but of “‘their (fem.)’ breaches,” “‘his’ ruins,” that God would “build ‘her’ up,” “that ‘they’ (masc.) may inherit;” using apparently this variety of numbers and genders , in order to show that he is speaking of one living whole, the Jewish Church, now rent in two by the great schism of Jeroboam, but which should be reunited into one body, members of which should win the pagan to the true faith in God. “I will raise up,” he says, “the tabernacle of David, the fallen, and will wall up ‘their’ breaches,” (the breaches of the two portions into which it had been rent) and I will raise up “his” ruins (the “ruinated places” of David) and I will build “her” (as one whole) as in the days of old, (before the rent of the ten tribes, when all worshiped as one), that “they,” (masculine) that is, individuals who should go forth out of her, “may inherit, etc.”

Verse 12

That they may possess - rather, “inherit

The remnant of Edom - The restoration was not to be for themselves alone. No gifts of God end in the immediate object of His bounty and love. They were restored, in order that they, the first objects of God’s mercies, might win others to God; not Edom only, “but all nations, upon whom,” God says, “My Name is called.” Plainly then, it is no temporal subjugation, nor any earthly kingdom. The words, “upon whom the name is called,” involve, in any case, belonging to, and being owned by, him whose name is called upon them. It is said of the wife bearing the name of the husband and becoming his, “let thy name be called upon us Isaiah 4:1. When Jacob especially adopts Ephraim and Manasseh as his he says, “let my name be named upon them, and the name of My fathers, Abraham and Isaac” Genesis 48:16. In relation to God, the words are used of persons and of places especially appropriated to God; as the whole Jewish Church and people, His Temple 1 Kings 8:43; Jeremiah 7:10-11, Jeremiah 7:14, Jeremiah 7:30; Jeremiah 34:15, His prophets Jeremiah 15:16, the city of Jerusalem Daniel 9:18-19 by virtue of the temple built there. Contrariwise, Isaiah pleads to God, that the pagan “were never called by Thy Name” Isaiah 63:19. This relation of being “called” by the “Name” of God, was not outward only, nor was it ineffective. Its characteristics were holiness imparted by God to man, and protection by God. Thus Moses, in his blessing on Israel if obedient, says, “The Lord shall establish thee an holy people unto Himself, as He hath sworn to thee, if thou shalt keep the commandments of the Lord thy God, and walk in His ways; and all the people of the earth shall see that the Name of the Lord thy God is called upon thee, and they shall fear thee” Deuteronomy 28:9-10. And Jeremiah says to God , “Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart, for Thy name was called upon me, O Lord God of Hosts.”

Israel then, or the Jewish Church, was to inherit, or take into itself, not Edom only, but all nations, and that, by their belonging to God. Edom, as the brother of Israel and yet his implacable enemy, stands as a symbol of all who were alien from God, over against His people. He says, the “residue of Edom,” because he had foretold the destruction which was first to come upon Edom; and Holy Scripture everywhere speaks of those who should be converted, as a “remnant” only. The Jews themselves are the keepers and witnesses of these words. Was it not foretold? It stands written. Is it not fulfilled? The whole world from this country to China, and from China round again to us, as far as it is Christian, and as, year by year, more are gathered into the fold of Christ, are the inheritance of those who were the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

James quoted these words in the Council of Jerusalem, to show how the words of the prophet were in harmony with what Peter had related, how “God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His Name” Acts 15:14. He quotes the words as they stood in the version which was understood by the Gentiles who came from Antioch. In it the words are paraphrased, but the meaning remains the same. The Greek translators took away the metaphor, in order, probably, to make the meaning more intelligible to Greeks, and paraphrased the Hebrew words, imagining other words, as like as might be to the Hebrew. They render, “that the residue of men may seek, and all the nations upon whom My name is called.” The force of the prophecy lies in these last words, that “the Name of God should be called upon all nations.” James, then, quoted the words as they were familiar to his hearers, not correcting those which did not impair the meaning. The so doing, he shows us incidentally, that even imperfection of translation does not empty the fullness of God’s word. The words, “shall seek the Lord,” although not representing anything expressed here in the original, occur in the corresponding prophecy of Isaiah as to the root of Jesse, “In that day there shall be a root” (that is, a sucker from the root) “of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people, and to it shall the Gentiles seek” Isaiah 11:10. It may be, that James purposely uses the plural, “the words of the prophets,” in order to include, together with the prophet Amos, other prophets who had foretold the same thing. The statements, that the Jewish Church should inherit the Gentiles, that the Name of God should be called upon the Gentiles, and that the Gentiles should seek the Lord, are parts of one whole; that they should be called, that they should obey the call, and, obeying, he enrolled in the one family of God.

Verse 13

Behold the days are coming - The Day of the Lord is ever coming on: every act, good or bad, is drawing it on: everything which fills up the measure of iniquity or which “hastens the accomplishment of the number of the elect;” all time hastens it by. “The plowman shall overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed.” The image is taken from God’s promise in the law; “Your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time” Leviticus 26:5; which is the order of agriculture. The harvest should be so copious that it should not be threshed out until the vintage: the vintage so large, that, instead of ending, as usual, in the middle of the 7th month, it should continue on to the seed-time in November. Amos appears purposely to have altered this. He describes what is wholly beyond nature, in order that it might the more appear that he was speaking of no mere gifts of nature, but, under natural emblems, of the abundance of gifts of grace. “The plowman,” who breaks up the fallow ground, “shall overtake,” or “throng, the reaper. The “plowman” might “throng,” or “join on to the reaper,” either following upon him, or being followed by him; either preparing the soil for the harvest which the reaper gathers in, or breaking it up anew for fresh harvest after the in-gathering.

But the vintage falls between the harvest and the seed-time. If then by the “plowmen thronging on the reaper,” we understand that the harvest should, for its abundance, not be over before the fresh seed-time, then, since the vintage is much nearer to the seed-time than the harvest had been, the words, “he that treadeth out the grapes, him that soweth the seed,” would only say the same less forcibly. In the other way, it is one continuous whole. So vast would be the soil to be cultivated, so beyond all the powers of the cultivator, and yet so rapid and unceasing the growth, that seed-time and harvest would be but one. So our Lord says, “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, for they are white already to harvest” John 4:35. “Four months” ordinarily intervened between seed-time and harvest. Among these Samaritans, seed-time and harvest were one.

They had not, like the Jews, had teachers from God; yet, as soon as our Lord taught them, they believed. But, as seed time and harvest should be one, so should the vintage be continuous with the following seed-time. “The treader of grapes,” the last crowning act of the year of cultivation, should join on to “him that soweth” (literally, “draweth” forth, soweth broadcast, scattereth far and wide the) “seed.” All this is beyond nature, and so, the more in harmony with what went before, the establishment of a kingdom of grace, in which “the pagan” should have “the Name of God called upon” them. He had foretold to them, how God would “send famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord” Amos 8:11. Now, under the same image, he declares the repeal of that sentence. He foretells, not the fullness only of God’s gifts, but their unbroken continuance.

Jerome: “All shall succeed one another, so that no day should be void of grain, wine, and gladness.” And they shall not follow only on one another, but shall all go on together in one perpetual round of toil and fruitfulness. There shall be one unceasing inpouring of riches; no break in the heavenly husbandry; labor shall at once yield fruit; the harvest shall but encourage fresh labor. The end shall come swiftly on the beginning; the end shall not close the past only, but issue forth anew. Such is the character of the toils of the Gospel. All the works of grace go on in harmony together; each helps on the other; in one, the fallow-ground of the heart is broken up; in another, seed is sown, the beginning of a holy conversation; in another, is the full richness of the ripened fruit, in advanced holiness or the blood of martyrs. And so, also, of the ministers of Christ, some are adapted especially to one office, some to another; yet all together carry on His one work. All, too, patriarchs, prophets, Apostles, shall meet together in one; they who, before Christ’s coming , “sowed the seed, the promises of the Blessed Seed to come,” and they who “entered into their labors,” not to displace, but to complete them; all shall rejoice together in that Seed which is Christ.

And the mountains shall drop sweet wine and all the hills shall melt - Amos takes the words of Joel, in order to identify their prophecies, yet strengthens the image. For instead of saying, “the hills shall flow with milk,” he says, “they shall melt, dissolve themselves. Such shall be the abundance and super-abundance of blessing, that it shall be as though the hills dissolved themselves in the rich streams which they poured down. The mountains and hills may be symbols, in regard either to their height, or their natural barrenness or their difficulty of cultivation. In past times they were scenes of idolatry. In the time of the Gospel, all should be changed; all should be above nature. All should be obedient to God: all, full of the graces and gifts of God. What was exalted, like the Apostles should be exalted not for itself, but in order to pour out the streams of life-giving doctrine and truth, which would refresh and gladden the faithful. And the lesser heights, “the hills,” should, in their degree, pour out the same streams. Everything, heretofore barren and unfruitful, should overflow with spiritual blessing. The mountains and hills of Judaea, with their terraced sides clad with the vine were a natural symbol fruitfulness to the Jews, but they themselves could not think that natural fruitfulness was meant under this imagery. It would have been a hyperbole as to things of nature; but what, in naturl things, is a hyperbole, is but a faint shadow of the joys and rich delights and glad fruitfulness of grace.

Verse 14

And I will bring again the captivity of My people - Where all around is spiritual, there is no reason to take this alone as earthly. An earthly restoration to Canaan had no value, except as introductory to the spiritual. The two tribes were, in a great measure, restored to their own land, when Zachariah, being “filled with the Holy Spirit, prophesied,” as then about to accomplished, that “God hath visited and redeemed his people, and hath raised up a horn of salvation to us in the house of His servant David, as He spake by the mouth of His holy prophets - that we, being delivered from the hands of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him” Luke 1:68-70, Luke 1:74-75. So our Lord said; “ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. Whosoever committeth sin, is the servant of sin. If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” John 8:32, John 8:34, John 8:36. And Paul, “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” Romans 8:2.

And they shall build the waste - (Rather “shall build waste”) “cities.” “As they who are freed from captivity and are no longer in fear of the enemy, “build cities and plant vineyards” and gardens,” so shall these unto God. “This,” says one of old , “needs no exposition, since, throughout the world, amid the desert of pagandom, which was before deserted by God, Churches of Christ have arisen, which, for the firmness of faith may be called “cities,” and, for the gladness of “hope which maketh not ashamed, vineyards,” and for the sweetness of charity, gardens; wherein they dwell, who have builded them through the word; whence they drink the wine of gladness, who formed them by precepts; whence they eat fruits, who advanced them by counsels, because, as “he who reapeth,” so he too who “buildeth” such “cities,” and he who “planteth” such “vineyards,” and he who “maketh” such “gardens, receiveth wages and gathereth fruit unto life eternal” John 4:36.

Verse 15

And I will plant them upon their own land - The promises and threatenings of God are, to individuals, conditional upon their continuing to be of that character, to which God annexes those promises or threats. Theodoret: “The God of all often promises, when those who receive the promises, by joying in iniquity hinder those promises from taking effect. At times also he threatens heavy things, and they who for their offences were the objects of those threats, being, through fear of them, converted, do not in act experience them.” The two tribes received some little shadow of fulfillment of these promises on the return from Babylon. “They were planted in their own land.” The non-fulfillment of the rest, as well as the evident symbolic character of part of it, must have shown them that such fulfillment was the beginning, not the end. Their land was “the Lord’s land;” banishment from it was banishment from the special presence of God, from the place where He manifested Himself, where alone the typical sacrifices, the appointed means of reconciliation, could be offered.

Restoration to their own land was the outward symbol of restoration to God’s favor, of which it was the fruit. it was a condition of the fulfillment of those other promises, the coming of Him in whom the promises were laid up, the Christ. He was not simply to be of David’s seed, according to the flesh. Prophecy, as time went on, declared His birth at Bethlehem, His revelation in Galilee, His coming to His Temple, His sending forth His law from Jerusalem. Without some restoration to their own land, these things could not be. Israel was restored in the flesh, that, after the flesh, the Christ might be born of them, where God foretold that He should be born. But the temporal fulfillment ended with that event in time in which they were to issue, for whose sake they were; His coming. They were but the vestibule to the spiritual. As shadows, they ceased when the Sun arose. As means, they ended, when the end, whereto they served, came.

There was no need of a temporal Zion, when He who was to send forth His law thence, had come and sent it forth. No need of a temple when He who was to be its glory, had come, illumined it, and was gone. No need of one of royal birth in Bethlehem, when “the Virgin” had “conceived and borne a Son,” and “God” had been “with us.” And so as to other prophecies. All which were bound to the land of Judah, were accomplished. As the true Israel expanded and embraced all nations, the whole earth became “the land” of God’s people. Palestine had had its prerogatives, because God manifested Himself there, was worshiped there. When God’s people was enlarged, so as “to inherit the pagan,” and God was worshiped everywhere, His land too was everywhere. His promises accompanied His people, and these were in all lands. His words then, “I will plant them upon their own land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them,” expanded with their expansion. It is a promise of perpetuity, like that of our Lord; “Lo! I am with you alway, even to the end of the world. The gates of hell shall not prevail against” the Church, the people of God. The world may gnash its teeth; kings may oppress; persecutors may harass; popular rage may trample on her; philosophy may scoff at her; unbelief may deny the promises made to her; the powers of darkness may rage around her; her own children may turn against her. In vain! Jerome: “She may be shaken by persecutions, she cannot be uprooted; she may be tempted, she cannot be overcome. For the Lord God Almighty, the Lord her God, hath promised that He will do it, whose promise is the law to nature.”

Saith the Lord thy God - Rib.: “O Israel of God, O Catholic Church, to be gathered out of Jews and Gentiles, doubt not, he would say, thy promised happiness. For thy God who loveth thee and who from eternity hath chosen thee, hath commanded me to say this to thee in His Name.” Rup.: “He turneth too to the ear of each of us, giving us joy, in His word, ‘saith the Lord thy God.’” “They too who are plants which God hath planted, and who have so profited, that through them many daily profit, “shall be planted upon their own ground,” that is, each, in his order and in that kind of life which he has chosen, shall strike deep roots in true piety, and they shall be so preserved by God, that by no force of temptations shall they be uprooted, but each shall say with the holy prophet, “I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever” Psalms 52:9. Not that every tree, planted in the ground of the Church militant, is so firm that it cannot be plucked up, but many there are, which are not plucked up, being protected by the Hand of Almighty God. O blessed that land, where no tree is plucked up, none is injured by any worm, or decays through any age. How many great, fruit-bearing, trees do we see plucked up in this land of calamity and misery! Blessed day, when we shall be there, where we need fear no storm!” Yet this too abideth true; “none shall be plucked up.” Without our own will, neither passions within, nor temptations without, nor the malice or wiles of Satan, can “pluck” us “up.” None can “be plucked up,” who doth not himself loose his hold, whose root is twisted round the Rock, which is Thou, O Blessed Jesus. For Thou hast said, “they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of My Hand” John 10:28.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Amos 9". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.