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Bible Commentaries

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Amos 3


The necessity of God’s judgment against Israel, Amos 3:1-8. The publication of it, with the causes thereof, Amos 3:9-15.

Verse 1

Hear, with ear and mind, consider it well, for this is to hear indeed.

This word, which is spoken, and the thing decreed too, of God.

The Lord hath spoken; the Lord, who did show you greatest kindness, and whom you have repaid with greatest ingratitude, the everlasting God, who changeth not, hath determined and declared his determinate purpose; against you; or to, or concerning; for if menaces are words against them, yet advice, exhortations, and promises are to, and concerning, those to whom they are spoken.

O children of Israel; subjects of Jeroboam the Second, now king of the ten tribes.

Against the whole family: and let the two tribes consider too how far they are concerned in the prophet’s reproving for sin, calling to repent of sin, and threatening it they do not repent.

Brought up from the land of Egypt: see Amos 2:10.

Verse 2

You only have I known; chosen, made near to myself adopted to be my peculiar ones, to be sons and daughters to me; to you only have I revealed my whole will, and given you my law for your rule and direction, and my promises for your encouragement, and required you to have no other gods before me. Of all the families of the earth: this possibly may intimate God’s choosing them when they were but a small family, as in Abraham’s day, and when other families were as considerable as that of Abraham was; the growth of which into a mighty nation was from the favour and blessing of God, performing his promises to their forefathers; and this will aggravate their apostacy from God, which in the next words he threatens to punish.

Therefore: here is an elliptic speech, for God doth not punish his peculiar people because they are so near and dear to him, but for that, being so, they had forgotten their duty and obligations to God, and had abused all these his mercies.

I will punish you; my hand shall punish certainly, whoever are the means, and whatever is the manner, of which you shall hear more, but I will certainly visit for it. For all your iniquities; all your idolatries, and sins against the precepts of the first table, and all your injustices, and sins against the second table; all your desertings of the law of piety and justice; none of their works shall ever be forgotten, Amos 8:7.

Verse 3

Here the prophet threatens this people that God would begin his visitations and their punishments in his forsaking them, and doth by this interrogatory endeavour to convince them that they could not with any reason expect better from him; it could not be they should long have God’s presence with them, or that he should walk among them and bless them, while they walk so contrary to him; they could not in reason hope that there should be any friendly commerce where was so little agreement and friendship; a retaliation they must expect from the Lord; he will forsake them who have forsaken him.

Verse 4

In this verse, by a double similitude, Amos certifieth the Jews of near and inevitable punishment; first, by similitude of a lion roaring at sight of his prey, which seldom escapes when the lion roareth against it. The lion usually is so nigh to his prey when he roareth, that he leapeth on it presently, and teareth it: so here God would have sinning Israel know that their sins had provoked him to wrath, and that his judgments were near at hand. Nay, nearer yet; like a prey dragged by the old lion into the den for the young lions to feed on, so was their case, their enemies the Assyrians should as certainly devour them as the young lions in the den do devour the prey which is brought to them. If the departure of God from them affect them not, perhaps the fierceness of lion-like enemies may affect them.

Verse 5

A bird; a sparrow properly, one kind put for all sorts.

Fall in a snare: these are taken by nets spread on the earth for that end, and these nets are watched by the fowler, attending till the birds are within the shrape, then he draws the net over them: so here, For your sins, O Israel, God will spread his net, he will as a watchful fowler attend and keep his eye upon you, and cast the net over you.

Shall one take up a snare, and have taken nothing at all? flatter not yourselves as if you should finally escape because you have so long been safe and prosperous; though the fowler doth long wait, he will not take up the snare before all the prey, or some of it at least, be taken in it: so the Lord, against whom you have sinned, and who hath spread his net for you, will certainly let it lie till you are taken in it.

Verse 6

Shall a trumpet be blown, when an alarm is sounded, by which notice is given of danger approaching, of an enemy invading the land, in the city, any city, but particularly in a frontier city, in which were watchmen on the walls and towers to give notice of an enemy, Isaiah 52:8; Ezekiel 3:17; Ezekiel 33:7,

and the people not be afraid; affected with the danger, to weigh how great it is, how near it is; whether it be best to prepare to resist it, or to flee from it? Such-like affections doth the alarm of war work in the minds of men ordinarily, and there is good reason for it: but though God hath sounded the alarm, yet brutish, stupid, and sinful Israel fear not, neither consult what is the best course to prevent the danger.

Shall there be evil, of affliction and sorrow, such as plague, famine, &c., in a city, or any where else, and the Lord, the eternal, holy, and righteous Governor of all in heaven and on earth, hath not done it, either immediately by his own hand, or mediately by the hands of those he employs? the evil of punishment he will execute and bring upon Israel; he will by the hands of the Assyrians in due time execute it.

Verse 7

Surely, since that, or, forasmuch as, the Lord God will do nothing; usually the Lord doth no great tiring for or against his people, neither brings great judgments upon them for sin, nor bestows great good upon them for their encouragement to duty,

but he revealeth, but he foretelleth the one and the other by his prophets to his people, that they may by repentance prevent the evil threatened, and by constancy in obedience attain the good promised.

His secret; his purpose and determinate counsel, which would never be known aforehand if he did not reveal it.

Unto his servants; who fear the Lord, and do his will in the midst of worst of times; they are holy men of God to whom the Lord revealeth his will.

The prophets; by office called of God to this, and by gifts fitted for this, and by extraordinary assistance carried through this work.

Verse 8

The lion hath roared; God hath threatened; and, as a lion roareth when near his prey, so God hath terribly threatened what is near to be done. Amos lived and prophesied in Jeroboam’s time, about A.M. 3150, and these threatened judgments began to come upon Israel when the conspiracies and usurpations of Shallum, Menahem, &c. filled all with blood and confusions, about A.M. 3177.

Who will not fear? what wise man, who that is solicitous for his own good and safety, or that hath any affections for the good of others, will do less than reverence and fear, and prevent by a speedy repentance?

The Lord God hath spoken: this is plainly what was before figuratively set forth, God had spoken to his prophets but dreadful things against Israel. Who can but prophesy? they dare not conceal them, Amos cannot but speak what he had heard, Jeremiah 1:17; Acts 4:19; Acts 5:25.

Verse 9

Publish; you prophets whom I have sent to threaten the sins of my people Israel, now invite strangers to come and observe what just cause I have to do what I threaten.

In the palaces at Ashdod; one of the principal cities of the Philistines, Amos 1:8; Zephaniah 2:4; let those that are in the court at Ashdod, and have a mind to travel a while out of their own land, let them know what strange sights they may see in their neighbour land.

And in the palaces in the land of Egypt; let the young noblemen of Egypt come too, yea, let as many as will come.

Assemble yourselves; by an appointment (if it may be) let them meet together, and make their observations, and then judge between their doings and their sufferings, my judgments and the causes of them.

Upon the mountains of Samaria; either the whole kingdom of Samaria or the ten tribes, or else it may denote the great men and cities of Samaria; let Egyptians and Philistines in their travels up and down over the kingdom of Israel associate themselves with the great men, and converse in the cities.

Behold; take an exact view of all done by them and in them.

The great tumults; the seditious counsels and rebellious conspiracies, begun amongst them on the death of Jeroboam the Second, and continued one after another for many years, like madmen, bent on ruining one another, to the undoing of all: besides all former violences of Baasha, Zimri, Omri, and Jehu, who took the kingdom out of the hands of their masters; those of Shallum, Menahem, Pekah, and Hoshea, acted in the times Amos pointeth at.

The oppressed; multitudes of oppressed ones in those times, when the usurpers took it to be their interest to crush all they feared or suspected.

In the midst thereof; Samaria, the chief city of the kingdom, and in other cities; yea, rather through the whole kingdom of Samaria.

Verse 10

For they know not; those who oppress others do it as unlearned lawyers and judges do, they are shamefully ignorant of the law of God.

To do right; what is equal between man and man they will not consider, nor do they care whether it be done or not.

Store up; as men lay up wealth in their treasures, they fill their houses.

Violence; perverting judgment, first condemning the innocent, next seizing all as forfeited by law; so they did, no doubt, in those times of rebellion and usurpations; sequestrations and decimations, &c. were then too.

Robbery; the true name of all their proceedings, however palliated.

In their palaces: this intimates to us that the greatest among them were chief actors herein; see Zephaniah 1:9; but as they stored up violence, they also treasured up misery and desolation too, as the Hebrew elegantly imports.

Verse 11

Therefore; because of all the violence and rapine, with other crying sins, multiplied against God in the midst of them.

An adversary, the Assyrian with united forces, shall be even round about the land, on all sides shall beset thee; the whole land shall be but as one besieged city, out of which none, or so few as next to none, shall escape.

He shall bring down thy strength from thee; lay low all thy fortresses, break all thy power, kill thy valiant men, destroy thy armies, and by force take thy strong holds.

Thy palaces shall be spoiled; where thou laidst up thy spoils gotten by violence and oppression, there thy enemy shall find them, and take them away as lawful plunder; and when thy riches are carried out, they shall burn the palaces themselves too.

Verse 12

In brief, this verse foretells how few and with what difficulty they shall escape who are not swallowed up of the approaching judgments, and it is elegantly expressed in the following similitude.

As the shepherd taketh out of the mouth; as the shepherd doth hardly rescue a small part of a sheep or lamb, when the lion hath seized and torn it.

The lion; the fiercest, strongest, and boldest creature, not a bear or wolf.

Two legs; which are parts the ravening lion less regardeth and last eateth;

or a piece of an ear, less considerable than the legs.

So shall the children of Israel, some of the children of Israel, or some of the ten tribes, but the poorer, meaner, and more worthless of them,

be taken out that dwell in Samaria; shall escape when Samaria is taken.

In the corner of a bed; lying in some dark corner, and on a piece of a bed, as the poor do in most places.

In Damascus; the chiefest city of Syria, taken by Tiglath-pileser much about the time when he wasted Israel in aid of Ahaz against Rezin and Pekah.

In a couch; some few of the poorer among them also shall escape, pitied by the enemy when he findeth them weakly and sick upon their couch.

Verse 13

Hear ye; prophets.

Testify, publicly declare and witness, make what proof you can of this thing, in the house of Jacob; to the ten tribes, as first and most nearly concerned herein, and to the two tribes also, who, as guilty of many and great sins, so are in danger of many and great judgments, and these hastening on them.

Saith the Lord God; assure them the message comes from the Lord God.

The God of hosts, who is Lord of all, and hath all power in his hand; when he commands, all the hosts of creatures attend to execute his commands, so that what he threateneth he will surely execute.

Verse 14

In the day; in the appointed time, and within compass of a little time too; God will in his set time make quick work with them.

Visit the transgressions of Israel upon him; the many and great transgressions of the ten tribes, these God will, as he hath foretold by his prophets, severely punish, and in particular their idolatry.

The altars, erected unto the calves, and on which they Offered sacrifices to those idols by Jeroboam’s appointment at first, and by the continued commands of their idolatrous governors. It is possible there might be altars to other idols too: see 2 Chronicles 34:4; Hosea 8:11; Hosea 10:1.

Beth-el; anciently called Luz, but afterwards Jacob, on his comfortable vision, did change its name into Beth-el; it was in the tribe of Benjamin, and one of the two places Jeroboam first set up his idolatry in.

The horns of the altar; whether a more sacred part in their account I know not, but who fled to the altar, and laid hold on the horns of it, found them a sanctuary, 1 Kings 2:28; but these now should not be safety to themselves.

Shall be cut off, the altars shall be pulled down,

and fall to the ground; be cast out as common, and trodden under foot with contempt.

Verse 15

I will smite; by the greatness of the desolation it shall appear that God did smite, though by the Assyrian; or perhaps it may refer to the earthquake foretold two years before it came, Amos 1:1.

The winter house; which probably was in the chief city, where the rich and great men retired in the winter time, as more for their delight than the country, horrid and cold, and stripped of its glory.

The summer house; the houses of pleasure, where the nobles and rich men of Israel spent the summer time.

The houses of ivory; not built with, but beautified with ivory, or the elephant’s tooth, called here and elsewhere, by way of eminency, the tooth.

Shall perish; by the violence of the enemies, these stately houses shall be ransacked first, and pulled down next, and left in rubbish.

The great houses; or many, for the word includes both. The magnificent palaces of princes and the nobles of Israel

shall have an end; shall cease for ever, either be utterly wasted, or cease to be theirs whose once they were.

Saith the Lord; all this shall infallibly come to pass and be fulfilled in due time.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Amos 3". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.