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Bible Commentaries

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Amos 4

A.M. 3217. B.C. 787.

In this chapter we have,

(1,) Threatenings denounced against oppressors, Amos 4:1-3 .

(2,) A declaration that idolaters are abandoned to their idolatry, Amos 4:4 , Amos 4:5 .

(3,) A representation of the incorrigibleness of the people of Israel, Amos 4:6-11 .

(4,) They are called to humble themselves before God in the view of the terrible judgments which were approaching, Amos 4:12 , Amos 4:13 .

Verse 1

Amos 4:1. Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan Bashan was famous for its flocks and herds, Deuteronomy 32:14; Ezekiel 39:18. The proud and luxurious matrons of Israel may be here described. In this sense the words are understood by Grotius, and some other commentators. Thus rich, proud, and tyrannical men are compared, Psalms 22:13, to the bulls of Bashan; because cattle fed in the pastures of Bashan, which were remarkably rich, were more than commonly large, and wanton, or headstrong, by reason of their full feeding. Which say to their masters To their husbands; Bring, and let us drink From these expressions we may infer the dissoluteness and intemperance of the women. And it may be observed here also, that even the women are accused of oppressing the poor, and crushing the needy; from whence we may gather to how great a height cruelty, oppression, and insolence were grown among them, since even the women were guilty of these vices. Some, however, think that the description contained in this verse is not to be confined to the matrons, but that the rich, luxurious, and profligate rulers and nobles are also and even especially intended; and that these might be represented as kine rather than bulls, in order to reprove their effeminacy and cowardice when assaulted by their enemies; while at the same time they crushed and trampled on their unresisting brethren, and sold them for slaves, saying to the masters who bought them, Bring, and let us drink. Having made the iniquitous bargain, perhaps, on low terms, they required from the purchaser to be treated with wine. This is Mr. Scott’s view of the passage.

Verse 2

Amos 4:2. The Lord hath sworn by his holiness As sure as God is holy and true, so certainly will he bring the threatened judgment upon you; that he will take you away with hooks “The original word in the masculine is used for thorns; but in the feminine it signifies shields. So that, perhaps, a fishing instrument may be denoted, which, like some now in our use, resembled a shield, or a basket, in its form. Our translators render the word hooks, from their analogy to thorns.” Newcome. And your posterity Or remainder; with fish-hooks Invaders and spoilers are often compared to fishers. The sense here seems to be, that the several invaders of Israel, coming after one another, should make an entire riddance of the whole nation, so that their posterity, or remainder, which had escaped the first invaders, should certainly fall into the hands of those that came after.

Verse 3

Amos 4:3. And ye shall go out at the breaches, every cow, &c. The prophet pursues the metaphor taken from the kine of Bashan, Amos 4:1, and tells the people, that as cattle strive to get out at every breach they can find in a mound or fence: so should they, with all possible haste, endeavour to make their escape at the several breaches which should be made in the walls of Samaria. And ye shall cast them into the palace The marginal reading is preferable, Ye shall cast away the things; namely, the riches and ornaments, of the palace. Or the clause may be rendered, Ye shall cast out yourselves, that is, ye shall with haste betake yourselves to Harmon: so the Vulgate, Et projiciemini in Armon, that is, says Grotius, “into Armenia. So the Hebrews understand it.”

Verses 4-5

Amos 4:4-5. Come to Beth-el The known place of the calf-worship; and transgress A strong irony, giving them over as incorrigible: like that of Ezekiel 20:39, Go ye, serve every man his idols. At Gilgal multiply transgression This place also, as well as Beth-el, was the scene of idolatry, as appears from the cotemporary Prophet Hosea. And bring your sacrifices every morning According to the law of the daily burnt- offering, Numbers 28:4, which they observed in the worship of the golden calves. The prophet continues in the same strain of irony to reprove their idolatry, though in it they imitated the instituted worship at Jerusalem. And your tithes after three years God had commanded, Deuteronomy 14:28, that every third year all the tithe of that year should be brought and laid up in a public storehouse, upon which account the third year is called the year of tithing. And offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven Or, with leavened bread, as the law prescribes, Leviticus 7:13. And proclaim the free-offerings Or freewill- offerings, as the word is translated in other places. For this liketh you, &c. Vulgate, sic enim voluistis, for such is your will, or so it pleases you to act. Your hearts are so set upon your idolatrous worship, that it is in vain to use any arguments to dissuade you from it.

Verses 6-8

Amos 4:6-8. And I also have given you Or, for this cause I have given you, cleanness of teeth An expression signifying a scarcity of food, or a famine. The famine which we read of 2 Kings 8:1, seems to be that which is here referred to. Yet have ye not returned unto me Nevertheless ye have not been brought to a sense of your sins, to any sorrow for them, or to any sincere purpose of amendment. Also I have withholden the rain, when there were yet three months to the harvest At a season when your country most needed it, and when it had been wont to fall most plentifully. And I caused it to rain upon one city, and not upon another And, to make it more remarkable, I caused it to rain upon cities or places adjoining to yours, at the same time that the drought was so great on all your territories. This may import that God punished them with drought at the same time when he sent rain upon the cities of Judah; making a remarkable difference between Israel and Judah, like that which he formerly made between Egypt and the land of Goshen. One piece was rained upon, &c. This seems to be spoken of those parts which lay quite contiguous to the lands of other nations, of which parts, though they touched each other, yet rain fell upon the one and not upon the other; the consequence of which was, that the one piece of land was withered, or scorched up for want of moisture, while the adjoining one was green and flourishing. So two or three cities wandered, &c. So the inhabitants of several of your cities went to some city or other without your territories for the sake of getting water to quench their thirst. But they were not satisfied They could not obtain a sufficient quantity.

Verses 10-11

Amos 4:10-11. I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt I have sent such pestilence among you as I formerly sent upon Egypt: Or, such as has frequently taken place in Egypt. “The unwholesome effluvia, on the subsiding of the Nile, caused some peculiarly malignant diseases in this country.” Newcome. Maillet also tells us, (Lamentations 1:0 . page 14,) that “the air is bad in those parts, where, when the inundations of the Nile have been very great, this river, in retiring to its channel, leaves marshy places, which infect the country round about. The dew is also very dangerous in Egypt.” Your young men have I slain, &c. I have caused your young men to fall in battle with your enemies. And have taken away your horses Have enabled your enemies to take them from you. Horses being very scarce in the land of Israel, the loss of them was a great affliction. I have made the stink of your camps, &c. I have sent diseases into your camps; so that they have been rendered quite noisome by the smell of the dead carcasses, or so great has been the slaughter in your camps, that there were not a sufficient number left alive to bury the slain. The Syrians made frequent incursions on the Israelites, which obliged the latter to be often encamped. I have overthrown some of you, &c. Some of your cities I have caused to be burned with fire and utterly consumed, as Sodom and Gomorrah were. And ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning Those that remained very narrowly escaped. A proverbial expression, used both by sacred and profane authors, to signify a narrow escape out of imminent danger.

Verses 12-13

Amos 4:12-13. Therefore thus will I do unto thee I will continue to send these several judgments upon thee till I entirely destroy thee. And because, or, forasmuch, as I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel Expect that he will come to take full vengeance upon thee, and consider whether thou art able to contend with him; (so the expression of meeting an adversary is understood, Luke 14:31;) or if that be impossible, endeavour to avert his anger by confession of sin, humiliation, repentance, and reformation, before it actually break out upon thee. For lo, he that formeth the mountains, &c. For lo, I am he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind I am the former of all things, both those which are seen, and those which are so fine and subtle as to escape the discernment of man. And declareth unto man what is his thought Who can search into the very thoughts of man, and declare what they are before they are put into execution, or are expressed in words. That maketh the morning darkness The Vulgate reads, Forming the morning cloud. Houbigant and Grotius, however, with some others, read, He that maketh the morning, and the darkness, namely, the day and the night, or, as the latter interprets it, gives prosperity to the godly, and adversity to the wicked, as the Chaldee here explains it. And treadeth upon the high places of the earth That is, says Grotius, Who treadeth under foot the proud: in other words, who can humble the great and mighty, and overthrow the strongest fortresses, or places of strength. The Lord, The God of hosts is his name Whose sovereign power all creatures obey, and act for or against us as he willeth. Let us humble ourselves before this God, and give all diligence to make him our God. For happy are the people whose God he is, and who have all this power engaged for them!

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Amos 4". Benson's Commentary. 1857.