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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Amos 4

Verses 1-13

Amos 4:1 . Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan. The strong bulls of Bashan are celebrated in scripture. Psalms 22:13. Vaccæ pingues, fat cows, haughty women, abandoned to luxurious ease, and who, equally with their husbands, oppressed the poor to indulge in feasts and wine.

Amos 4:2 . The Lord God hath sworn that he will take you away with hooks, and your posterity with fish hooks. The Chaldaic has “your daughters.” This language is both natural and impressive. The Philistines cover their seas with fishing smacks, and the Egyptians their river with anglers. It was equally proper for Ezekiel to menace the same offenders with Chaldean hunters, whose princes, according to Xenophon, were famed for hunting the boar. In one of those excursions, Belshazzar, in a moment of anger, pierced his friends. Cyropædia. The nets which providence would cast upon them should so entangle them, as to leave no hope of escape through the meshes or breaches.

Amos 4:4 . Come to Bethel and transgress. Bethel was the place where Messiah the God of Abraham appeared to Jacob. Genesis 28:0. At Gilgal multiply transgression. Near this place, while the Hebrews were recovering from circumcision, Jehovah the Angel appeared to Joshua: Joshua 5:13; Joshua 5:15. These sacred places, which had been consecrated by the divine presence, were now polluted with Baal’s altars. Such were the grievous and daring sins committed by this idolatrous people. The Lord therefore, by way of contempt, bids them sin on, and be bold in transgression. He bids them bring the tithe of the third year into their cities, an extra-tithing for the levite and the poor, though the word extra is not mentioned. Deuteronomy 14:26. The levites had nine tenths of the whole tithe of the nation, and the priests one tenth, as stated by Dr. Lightfoot.

Amos 4:7 . Three months to the harvest. The Lord denied them the latter rain, as described in Deuteronomy 11:14. This was the rain which caused the corn to grow and flourish for a luxuriant harvest. He adds, I caused it to rain on one city, and caused it not to rain on another. The locality of the rain designated a particular providence.

Amos 4:10 . Pestilence, after the manner of Egypt. When the waters of the Nile retired, it was often a sickly time, owing to the vegetable decomposition of the wreck which was left behind.


Isaiah had twice given hard strokes at the haughty women of Jerusalem, dressed in purple, scarlet, gold, and gems; and here Amos is understood as doing the same against the women of Samaria. Yet by oppressing the poor, and crushing the needy, the words apply with more propriety to the rulers. It is however a fact, that extravagance occasions oppression; and oppression draws down the vengeance of heaven. The Lord ever lives the widow’s husband, and the orphan’s friend; and he accounts it the glory of his justice to oppress the oppressor.

When wicked men scorn the restraints of temperance and piety, the divine justice with holy scorn bids them glut themselves in the riot of crime. Come ye, transgress at Gilgal; insult that covenant ground, with the foulest breaches of the covenant. So when their fathers loathed the manna, he gave them flesh in his anger, and death followed the feast. Solomon also bids the prodigal that scorns reform, to walk in the sight of his eyes, and in the desire of his heart. Whenever this is the case, it is an awful omen that the wicked approach the vortex of destruction.

The prophet makes a transition to a review of providence towards Israel from the time of their apostasy, and he opens a scene of tragedy the most sublime and instructive that can be conceived. The combatants are God and Israel; and it is awful to add, that both the parties are determined not to yield. Israel is resolved to keep his idols, his feasts, his sins; and God has sworn by his holiness, by his holy name, that they shall all die in their sins, or be led away in chains as fish are drawn from the water by a hook. Who would not tremble for the issue? Who would not lament the consequences of such infatuation?

Feeling as a father, the Lord begins the contest with grace, and grace of an extraordinary kind. When the form and the spirit of religion were almost lost, he raised up Elijah and Elisha, whose ministry resembled the opening of the gospel. He aided their sermons by a sevenfold scale of visitations which tended to restrain wickedness, and to prolong the existence of the nation. He confounded the infidel who denied a providence, by an unheard of variation in the rains. One time he repressed voluptuousness by famine; and at another, by blasting and mildew. The pestilence next raged in the country, mocked at medicine, and gave up the wicked to the empire of death. Fire also fell repeatedly from heaven, and consumed them. Locusts likewise augmented their scarcity, while the sword with encreasing strokes of carnage made their number small. Oh ye mountains of Israel, covered with idols, how unlike the days of David and Solomon, when an obedient people inherited covenant mercies. Still the Lord’s hand is uplifted: still his anger is not turned away: still he awaits but with lingering and weeping over Ephraim; he awaits to let the Assyrian give the finishing stroke. Thus when every resource of mercy is exhausted, justice must do its strange work.

Sinner, inconsiderate sinner, thou art already on the stage in contest with thy Maker. He is dealing with thee as with Israel. Mercy, entreaty, and the rod are hitherto thy lot. Thou art far advanced in the career of defeat and ruin. Destruction awaits thy next presumptuous sin. Therefore, seeing the day, the awful day is at hand, I would say once for all, Prepare to meet thy God. This God, who yet for a moment suspends the blow, made the mountains, created the wind, and treadeth on the high places of the earth: thou hast no chance, no hope to escape out of his hands. Oh yield, yield to his longsuffering grace and mercy, and thou shalt yet be happy. Yield, oh yield, and let not an incorrigible temper be worse than all thy other crimes.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Amos 4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.