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Denunciation of the Outstanding Vices
v. 1. Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan, this name being taken from the strong, well-fed cattle of the pasture country east of Jordan, that are in the mountain of Samaria, the description agreeing with the extortions and the luxurious life of the rulers of Samaria, which oppress the poor, which crush the needy, which say to their masters (the picture of the cattle of Bashan being retained), Bring and let us drink.
v. 2. The Lord God hath sworn by His holiness, by a most solemn oath, that, lo, the days shall come upon you that He will take you away with hooks, or, "when men will drag you away with hooks,". and your posterity, or the remnant of you, that which is left after the first punishment, with fish-hooks, as fish are drawn from the water.
v. 3. And ye shall go out at the breaches, through the breaches which had been torn in the walls by the attacking enemies, every cow at that which is before her, literally, "every one before her," anxious to get away, looking neither to the right nor to the left; and ye shall cast them into the palace, saith the Lord, or, "be cast forth to Harmon," apparently the place where they were led away captive. So much having been said of the rulers of Samaria and of Israel, the Lord now, in bitter irony, turns to the entire nation, bidding the people just continue in their idolatry and transgression; the divine punishment would not be kept away by their tactics.
v. 4. Come to Bethel and transgress, in their idolatrous worship; at Gilgal, another seat of idol-worship, multiply transgression; and bring your sacrifices every morning, in a wonderful zeal for worship, and your tithes after three years, rather, "after three days," for Amos purposely speaks hyperbolically: Even if you should offer burnt offerings every morning and tithes every three days, it would only increase your guilt before Jehovah;
v. 5. and offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, Cf Leviticus 7:12-14, and proclaim and publish the free offerings, making a great show of their religious fervor; for this liketh you, this they delighted in doing, O ye children of Israel, saith the Lord God. The more zeal the hypocrites show in imitating the outward worship of the true believers, the more guilt they heap upon themselves in the sight of God, whose all-seeing eye penetrates their flimsy pretexts and causes Him to emphasize His threats of punishment.
Various Punishments Leading up to the Last Judgment
v. 6. And I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, namely, because they had nothing to eat, and want of bread in all your places, by famines sent at various times; yet have ye not returned unto Me, saith the Lord, His punishment had not had the desired effect.
v. 7. And also I have withholden the rain from you, the latter rain, which was necessary to insure a crop, when there were yet three months to the harvest, which occurred in the latter part of May or in early June; and I caused it to rain upon one city and caused it not to rain upon another city, both granting and withholding this great blessing according to His will; one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered. To this day this is, in spite of spurious claims of scientists concerning reasonable causes for everything, the only explanation which suffices for the fact that moisture in a given locality is often found in definite strips only.
v. 8. So two or three cities, impelled by necessity, wandered unto one city to drink water, to get enough at least to sustain life; but they were not satisfied, they could not drink their fill, and their trip, made with unsteady feet as it was, brought them nothing. Yet have ye not returned unto Me, saith the Lord.
v. 9. I have smitten you, as a third chastisement, with blasting and mildew, with a blight upon the cereal grains; when your gardens and your vineyards and your fig-trees and your olive-trees increased, the enumeration of the individual cases tending to emphasize the visitation, the palmer-worm, the Oriental locust, devoured them. Yet have ye not returned unto Me, saith the Lord.
v. 10. I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt, so called because it was prevalent in that country; your young men have I slain with the sword, especially when the Israelites suffered defeats at the hand of the Syrians, and have taken away your horses, these also being slaughtered in battle; and I have made the stink of your camps to come up unto your nostrils, namely, that of the dead bodies of men and beasts. Yet have ye not returned unto Me, saith the Lord, even this chastisement having no effect upon them.
v. 11. I have overthrown some of you, some of Israel's cities, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye, those who escaped such utter extinction, were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning, the escape being very narrow. Yet have ye not returned unto Me, saith the Lord.
v. 12. Therefore, thus will I do unto thee, O Israel, namely, what He now says in conclusion; and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel, namely, to stand before the Lord's judgment-seat, and therefore to make due preparation to avert the final destruction by true repentance.
v. 13. For, lo, He that formeth the mountains, calling them into existence by His almighty power, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought, His omniscience readily penetrating into the mind of man, that maketh the morning darkness, turning back the dawn into night, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, ruling the whole earth with unlimited power. The Lord, the God of hosts, is His name, the Ruler of all the heavenly armies. The entire creation proclaims the one true God, and it is a matter of wisdom for man to stand before Him in a relation which will cause Him to show mercy rather than stern justice.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Amos 4". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent