Bible Commentaries
Amos 9

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes


2. The Lord standing by the altar ch. 9

This final vision differs from the preceding four in some significant ways. First, there is no introductory formula that explains the divine enablement of the prophet. Second, in the first pair of visions Amos spoke more than the Lord, in the second pair he spoke only a few words, and in the last one he said nothing. He played no active part in this vision. This creates an impression of Yahweh being increasingly separate from people and ready to judge. However, as with the preceding two visions, oracles follow the brief vision.

Verse 1

In the final vision that Amos recorded, he saw Yahweh standing beside an altar. The altar at Bethel is probably in view since Bethel was the worship site in view in most of this book and since Amos’ encounter with Amaziah occurred there (Amos 7:10-17). Another possibility is that any and every Israelite shrine might be in view. [Note: Ellison, p. 68.] The Lord gave a command that someone (an angel?) would strike the capitals that supported the roof of the temple there with such force that its foundation stones would shake and the whole structure would fall down (cf. Judges 16:29-30; Isaiah 6:4; Ezekiel 40:6). The Lord also said He would slay with the sword the rest of the priests and worshippers who survived being killed by the collapse of the temple. No one would escape with his or her life.

"The temple was not a literal temple, for the collapse of such a building would affect only a few. Rather it represents the religion of the northern kingdom, which, in the end, brought about the destruction of its adherents. The decay of the social structure that resulted from their cold externalism could lead only to national ruin. The gross sin of idolatry could lead only to judgment." [Note: McComiskey, p. 327.]

Verses 1-4

Yahweh’s inescapable punishment 9:1-4

Verses 2-3

It would be impossible for those whom the Lord chose to slay to escape even if they tried to dig into the earth or climb into the sky (cf. Psalms 139:7-8; Jonah 1-2).

"If neither heights nor depths can separate people from the love of God (cf. Romans 8:38-39), they are also unable to hide them from the wrath of God." [Note: G. Smith, p. 268.]

The ancients conceived of Sheol as under the surface of the earth, so digging into Sheol meant hiding in the ground. Neither would hiding in the forests and caves of Mt. Carmel, one of the highest elevations in Israel, or trying to conceal oneself on the floor of the sea be effective. The Lord would seek the guilty out and command His agents to execute them, even if that agent had to be a serpent in the sea (cf. Amos 5:19; Job 26:12-13; Psalms 74:13-14; Psalms 89:9-10; Isaiah 27:1; Isaiah 51:9-10). Note the chiastic structure in these verses going from down to up and back down, signifying all places.

Verse 4

The Lord would even slay the Israelites whom their enemy led away into captivity. Yahweh would order the sword to slay them even there, though there they would be under the protection of a strong foreign power. They would not be able to hide from His all-seeing eye. Normally God watched over His people for their good, but here He promised to set His eyes on them for evil. His purpose and intention for them was evil from their viewpoint. So thorough was the dispersion following the Assyrian invasion of Israel that the exiles came to be known as the "lost tribes." They were not really lost, however, as later revelation makes clear (Amos 9:11-15; et al.).

Verse 5

The judge is sovereign Yahweh who controls and leads armies, both heavenly armies of angels and earthly armies of soldiers. As sovereign, He is the one to whom all people and nations are responsible, not just Israel. He is the one who simply with a touch can cause the earth to melt, a figure that recalls the effect on ice when a human finger presses on it. He has the power to alter the course of human affairs as well so everyone mourns, if that is His choice. He causes the earth and human affairs to rise and fall, to ebb and flow, like the waters of the mighty Nile River.

Verses 5-6

The God who would punish 9:5-6

These verses describe the great God who would judge the Israelites. The section closes, "Yahweh is His name" (Amos 9:6). What precedes that clause is a revelation of His person (name).

Verse 6

He built His dwelling place in the heavens as a vaulted dome over the earth. He calls for the waters to leave the seas, rise up and form clouds, and pour down on the land. Since He exercises this control over the whole planet it is impossible to hide from Him or to escape His powerful hand. His name is Yahweh, the covenant keeping God whose sovereignty spans the universe (cf. Amos 5:8).

Verse 7

Rhetorically Yahweh asked if Israel was not just like other nations. It was in the sense that it was only one nation among many in the world that lived under His sovereign authority. It was like them too in that it was full of idolaters. The Ethiopians (Cushites) were a remote people in Amos’ day, living on the edge of the earth from an ancient Near Easterner’s perspective, yet God watched over them. He had separated the Philistines from Caphtor (Crete; cf. Deuteronomy 2:23) and the Syrians (Arameans) from Kir in Mesopotamia (cf. Amos 1:5) just as He had led Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land. The Philistines and Syrians were Israel’s enemies, but God had done for them what He had done for Israel. He could justly send the Israelites into another part of the world since He had formerly relocated these other nations. The Israelites considered themselves superior because of their election, but really they were no better or less accountable than any other nation.

By referring to the pagan nations at the end of the book, Amos came full circle having begun with oracles against these nations. Thus the emphasis on Yahweh’s universal sovereignty brackets the rest of the contents like bookends.

Verses 7-10

The justice of His punishment 9:7-10

Verse 8

As the sovereign Lord looked over all the kingdoms of the earth, He noticed those of them that were sinful and determined to destroy them because of their wickedness. He would do to Israel what He would do to any other sinful nation (cf. Amos 3:1-2). Yet He promised not to destroy completely the house of Jacob (the Northern Kingdom, because of the covenant He had made with Israel; cf. Amos 5:4-6; Amos 5:14-15).

Verse 9

God would sift all the Israelites, among the other nations, to separate the people deserving judgment from the righteous few. He would allow the righteous person (true wheat) to slip through but would retain the unrighteous (a kernel, pebble, anything compacted, Heb. seror) for judgment. Another possibility is that those who do not pass through the screen represent the righteous remnant and all others are the sinful Israelites. He would separate the righteous from the sinful as He sifted through the Israelites. God determines just how much sinfulness makes His punishment inevitable; He determines the mesh of the sifting screen.

Verse 10

All the guilty Israelites would die by the sword, the Lord promised. None of them who claimed that they would escape that calamity would get away.

Verse 11

In "that day" Yahweh would also restore the fallen booth of David that had suffered some destruction (cf. Amos 9:1; Leviticus 23:33-42; 2 Samuel 11:11; 1 Kings 20:12-16; Jonah 4:5). The booth (tent) of David is a reference to the dynasty of David, which acted as a shelter over the Israelites. When Amos prophesied, the tent of David had suffered major damage due to the division of the kingdom into two parts, though it had not yet collapsed completely. In the future God would restore the Davidic house and rebuild it as in former days, when it was a united kingdom with a descendant of David ruling over all Israel (cf. Jeremiah 30:3-10; Ezekiel 37:15-28; Hosea 3:4-5). That day, still future from our point in history, would be a day of restoration as well as a day of judgment. The restoration will follow in the Millennium after the judgments of the Tribulation.

Verses 11-12

The restoration of the Davidic kingdom 9:11-12

The rest of the book is quite different from what has preceded because of its positive message. As is true of other eighth-century prophets to Israel and Judah, Amos included hope in his prophecy (cf. Isaiah 40-66; Hosea 1:10 to Hosea 2:1, Hosea 2:14-23; Micah 2:12-13; Micah 4:1-5).

Verse 12

When the house of David was again intact, Israel would exercise authority over all the nations of the world and would be a source of blessing to them. This would include even the small number of Edomites alive then, people who had formerly been implacable enemies of the Israelites (cf. Obadiah 1:19). Israel’s blessing would extend even to them, representing all Israel’s former enemies. All the nations would become associated with the name of Yahweh then and would enjoy His lordship and protection (cf. Genesis 12:3; Isaiah 9:1-7; Isaiah 11:1-13; Isaiah 42:1-7; Isaiah 45:22-25; Isaiah 49:5-7; Isaiah 55:1-5).

Amos described three different groups as remnants: (1) a small group of the faithful within Israel in his day in contrast to all Israel (Amos 3:12; Amos 4:1-3; Amos 5:3; Amos 6:9-10; Amos 9:1-4), (2) a small group of faithful Israelites in the future (Amos 5:4-6; Amos 5:15), and (3) a small group of Edomites and other neighbors of Israel who would benefit from the Davidic promise in the future (Amos 9:12). [Note: Gerhard Hasel, The Remnant, pp. 393-94.]

At the Jerusalem Council, the Apostle James quoted Amos 9:11-12 to support his view that the Gentiles of his day did not need to submit to circumcision and the Mosaic Law to obtain salvation or to live acceptably as Christians (Acts 15:13-21). He knew that the judgments of Israel were not yet over (cf. Matthew 24:1-22; Luke 21:5-24; Acts 1:6-7). He also knew, from this passage and others (Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 60:3; Malachi 1:11), that when God restored the house of David Gentiles would have a share in that rule as Gentiles. James concluded, therefore, that Gentiles did not need to become Jews to enter into these (millennial) blessings. He did not mean that the church fulfills the promises to Israel but that since Gentiles will experience millennial blessings as Gentiles they do not need to live as Jews in the church.

"The ancient Greek [Septuagint] translation rendered this verse as follows: ’That the rest of mankind may seek [the LORD], and all the nations upon whom my name is called, saith the LORD, who does all these things.’ Strange as it may seem to those who are unfamiliar with the Hebrew language, the Hebrew text may be rendered this way, with little more than the change of one letter. The corruption of this letter must have occurred after the time of the apostles, for James thus quoted the verse at the Jerusalem Council, and based his decision upon it (Acts 15:14-17). There were learned men present, some of them hostile to his view, who would certainly have shouted him down if he had based his decision upon a reading different from that which existed in the then current Hebrew manuscripts." [Note: The New Scofield . . ., p. 938.]

Verse 13

In contrast to the images of judgment that Amos had painted throughout this book, days were coming when these terrible conditions would be reversed. The land would become so productive that farmers planting seed for the next harvest would push reapers of the same fields to finish their work so they could plant the next crop. Normally the Israelites plowed their fields in October and the reaping ended in May, but in the future reaping would still be going on in October because of the huge harvests. Wine-makers would similarly push the farmers to plant more vines. The grape harvest took place in August, and farmers planted new vines in November. Harvests would be so abundant that the gathering of one crop would not end before it was time to begin the new crop.

The mountains would be so full of fruitful grapevines that they could be described as dripping with sweet (the best) wine. All the hills would be dissolved in the sense of flowing down with produce, perhaps even washing the soil away with grape juice. This verse pictures the reversing of the curse that God pronounced on the earth at the Fall (Genesis 3:17-19). Instead of drought and famine (Amos 1:2; Amos 4:6-8) there would be abundant harvests (cf. Leviticus 26:3-5; Deuteronomy 28:4-5; Deuteronomy 28:8; Deuteronomy 28:11-12). Even though these may be hyperbolic images, the point is clear.

Verses 13-15

The blessings of the restored kingdom 9:13-15

Verse 14

Yahweh also promised to restore the Israelites to the Promised Land following their captivity and exile from it. They would return to their land and establish life marked by security and joy, abundant food and drink, and beauty and blessing. Such conditions could not occur during wartime (Amos 9:1; Amos 9:10; Amos 2:13-16; Amos 3:11; Amos 3:15; Amos 4:10-11; Amos 5:2-3; Amos 6:9-10; Amos 7:17) but would be possible in peacetime (cf. Leviticus 26:6; Deuteronomy 28:6).

Verse 15

Furthermore the Israelites would put roots down in the Promised Land and never have to leave it again (cf. Genesis 13:14-15; Genesis 17:7-8; Deuteronomy 30:1-5; 2 Samuel 7:10; Jeremiah 30:10-11; Ezekiel 37:25; Joel 3:17-21; Micah 4:4-7; Zechariah 14:11). They would not fear exile (Amos 4:2-3; Amos 5:5; Amos 5:27; Amos 6:7; Amos 7:11; Amos 7:17; Amos 9:4) but would be secure from every foe (cf. Leviticus 26:7-8; Deuteronomy 28:7; Deuteronomy 28:10). Yahweh, Israel’s true God, promised this.

"The pivot on which all this turns is CHRIST. As we have seen, He is brought before us in Amos:-(1) As Israel’s Shepherd, rescuing a remnant from the lion’s mouth [Amos 3:12]. (2) As Israel’s Intercessor, beseeching God for them that at all events some might ’arise’ (or ’stand,’ R.V) [Amos 7:2; Amos 7:5]. (3) As the One for whom Israel will mourn, and to whom their hearts will turn [Amos 8:10]. (4) As the true David, who will bring in the state of blessing and peace which God has from the beginning purposed for His people [Amos 9:11]." [Note: Harold P. Barker, Christ in the Minor Prophets, p. 36.]

The end of the Exile saw only a dim foreview of the blessings Amos announced here. Blessings in the church age do not compare either. Amillennialists see the fulfillment in the Israelites’ return from exile, in the church age in a spiritual sense (i.e., abundant spiritual blessings), or in heaven. [Note: See Bruce K. Waltke, An Old Testament Theology, p. 835.] Fulfillment has yet to come when God restores the tent of David in Jesus Christ’s millennial reign.

"Amos’ single prophecy of future blessing (Amos 9:11-15) details (1) the restoration of the Davidic dynasty (Amos 9:11); (2) the conversion of the nations (Amos 9:12); (3) the fruitfulness of the land (Amos 9:13); (4) Israel’s return from captivity (Amos 9:14); (5) the rebuilding of the waste cities (Amos 9:14); and (6) Israel’s permanent settlement in the holy land (Amos 9:15)." [Note: The New Scofield . . ., p. 938.]

"God’s promises for the future are anchor points to keep us stable, and to give us hope in times of personal distress and difficulty. The more we understand what God has promised for the future, the more we can endure our problems today." [Note: Dyer, p. 763.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Amos 9". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". 2012.