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He reproveth Israel for oppression, for idolatry, and for their incorrigibleness.
Before Christ 787.
Amos 4:1. Ye kine of Bashan— See the note on Psa 22:12 and Ezekiel 39:18. After having testified in the preceding chapter against the sumptuous palaces, the luxury and extravagance of Samaria, the prophet here attacks the covetousness, softness, and violence of the powerful women of this city; who abused their authority over their husbands, and employed their credit and power, like other Jezebels, to oppress the poor, and to perform all acts of cruelty and injustice. These women are represented in the next verse under the metaphor of fishes, wantoning in the streams, as they did in the midst of lascivious delights; but soon to be drawn out, and thrown aside.
Amos 4:3. And ye shall go out, &c.— And ye shall go out at the breaches, every cow after the other, and shall betake yourselves to the mountains of Mona, saith the Lord. But Houbigant supposes the metaphor in the preceding verses to be kept up; and he translates it, And ye shall come out by the apertures which are nearest to you, and ye shall be cast into nets, or receptacles. He conceives the meaning of the metaphor to be, that these fishes, being caught with hooks and nets, should be taken out thence and cast into a kind of well, a receptacle, for future use.
Amos 4:4. Come to Beth-el— This and the following verses are spoken ironically. See Hosea 4:15; Hosea 12:11. "Signalize your zeal and your diligence in those things which the Lord abhorreth most." Instead of, after three years, Houbigant reads with the Vulgate, in three days; which perhaps were those prescribed for the payment of their tithes.
Amos 4:6. And I also have given— For this cause have I given, &c. "The famine which I have sent upon the cities and territories of Israel, has not brought you to a sense of your sins, or any sincere purposes of amendment." The famine alluded to is recorded 2 Kings 8:1. See Calmet.
Amos 4:7-8. And also I have withholden the rain— These verses apparently refer to the withholding of those rains which filled their reservoirs of water for drinking; and our translators should have used the term dried up, as they did in translating the same word, Job 14:11 instead of withered. It is not to be supposed that their wheat harvest was delayed to the close of July. At present at Aleppo, barley harvest commences about the beginning of May, and the wheat harvest, as well as that, is generally over by the 20th. In Barbary it comes on at the latter end of May, or the beginning of June, according to the quality of the preceding seasons. Agreeably to this, Raimond de Agiles gives us to understand, that a great part of their harvest at Ramula was gathered in before the sixth of June in 1099, where he and the Christian army, having passed through Ramula in their way to Jerusalem, found most of the harvest ended.
Amos 4:11. Ye were as a fire-brand, &c.— A proverbial expression, used both by sacred and prophane writers to signify a narrow escape out of imminent danger. The comparison expresses perfectly well the state to which the Syrians reduced the Israelites in the war here referred to. "They shall see one part of their kingdom seized upon by the Syrians, their cities taken, their fields plundered, their troops defeated. That which shall be saved, shall escape with difficulty, and as it were half burned: a fire-brand "plucked out of the burning." See Isaiah 7:4. Zec 3:2. 1Co 3:15 and Calmet.
Amos 4:12. Therefore thus will I do unto thee, &c.— But now what shall I do unto thee, O Israel, after I have done these things? Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel! Amos 4:13. For lo, he is at hand, who formeth, &c. Houbigant. "Thy God himself will come to take full vengeance upon thee." Others paraphrase it, "Prepare yourselves to stand before the Messiah: for he shall come to exercise against you my whole vengeance, and to execute all my threatenings." And they suppose it to refer to the last destruction of Jerusalem.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, God's controversy against the oppressors and idolaters is here continued.
1. The oppressors are convicted, and their punishment read. Like kine of Bashan, they were strong, wanton, unruly, breaking down the fence of justice, and treading the weak under their feet; they fattened on the mountains of Samaria, oppressing the poor, and crushing the needy, by an enormous load of taxes, or the perversion of justice; or with a hard hand extorting such rents from their indigent tenants, as left them scarcely a sufficiency to live; which say to their masters, Bring and let us drink; which may be the words of the magistrates encouraging the masters of the poor to find some accusation against them, and for an entertainment they would decide the cause in their favour; or of one oppressive lord to another, willing to feast with him on the spoils of oppression. But God will not suffer such deeds to pass with impunity; He hath sworn by his holiness, and irrevocable is the decree; they shall be taken and destroyed, as easily and irresistibly as the fish which is caught by the hook; and they and their posterity, who should survive the slaughter made by the Assyrians, shall be sold for captives, and carried, as fish out of their element, into a strange land. Their city walls being beaten down by a besieging army, some would attempt to escape at the breaches, whilst others cast themselves into the palace or citadel, or lodged their substance there, but in vain; the fugitives will be pursued, and the high fortress laid low, even to the dust. Note; (1.) God will one day appear the patron of the injured, and avenge their wrongs. (2.) The fruits of oppression are often made the food of intemperance, and thus doubly aggravate the sinner's guilt. (3.) What is got by wickedness often perishes strangely, and every observer may see the finger of God in the visitation.
2. The idolaters are abandoned to their own devices, and a heavier curse cannot be laid upon them. Ironically speaking, God bids them to go on to multiply their transgressions at Beth-el and Gilgal, to bring their daily sacrifices, and offer their tithes at their idol-temples and altars, instead of the sanctuary at Jerusalem: and, calling on them ironically to mimic the worship of his temple, Lev 7:13 he says, Offer your sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven to your idols; and out of ostentation of piety, or inviting others to the feast, proclaim and publish the free offerings; for this liketh you, O ye children of Israel. They took a pleasure and pride in these idolatrous services: justly therefore doth God give them up to their own inventions, to fill up the measure of their iniquities.
2nd, The incorrigibleness of this people left them wholly inexcusable in their sins. God had tried repeatedly by his visitations to bend their stubborn hearts, ready to receive them if they humbled their souls; waiting with long patience, and loth to abandon them to ruin; but neither mercies nor judgments had any effect: five times he complains, yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord. We have,
1. An account of the methods that God had taken, by lesser judgments, to bring them to repentance.
[1.] He had visited them with famine in all their cities, 2 Kings 8:1. I have given you cleanness of teeth, there being no provision left, not even bread to chew, and satisfy the cravings of hunger: yet this was ineffectual; they repented not.
[2.] He sent a drought upon the land, and withheld the rain when there were yet three months to the harvest, the time when it usually fell; and without it the corn was scorched up and withered away; but, that they might observe that this was not a thing merely accidental, or owing to any influence of secondary causes, but by divine direction, as a judgment upon them, he caused it to rain on one city, and not on another, and gave the clouds their commission to water one piece, or inheritance, while the estate which lay contiguous, was scorched up with heat and drought: and probably this distinction was observable, the idolaters being punished, and the few faithful miraculously spared. In this distress, two or three cities wandered unto one city to drink water, but they were not satisfied, there being none, or but little to spare from their own wants; and even this produced no change.
[3.] Blasting and mildew next destroyed their corn and wine, and the palmer-worm devoured all their trees and herbage; yet they persisted in impenitence, and turned not to him that smote them.
[4.] The pestilence succeeded. They fell by a sudden stroke, like the first-born of Egypt, and God slew their armies with the sword of an enemy; or in the way of Egypt, as they went thither for food, some fell by the pestilence; and others, who went in companies, were intercepted and slain by their enemies, and their corpses left unburied, filling the air with noisome effluvia: yet, notwithstanding, the survivors repented not.
[5.] By fire from heaven God overthrew some of them, like Sodom and Gomorrah, as monuments of vengeance, and a warning to the rest who were spared, as brands plucked out of the burning; yet all their judgments left them as they found them, hardened in sin.
2. Since all has proved hitherto ineffectual, God will nevertheless send them the divinely appointed Messiah, and make to them his last great offer of salvation from guilt and corruption. Therefore thus will I do unto thee, or nevertheless, notwithstanding all these provocations, I will do as I have promised, sending the divine Messiah, who shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob, from every soul that embraces him in faith: and because I will do this unto thee, let such an act of astonishing mercy and grace at last bend thy stubborn neck; and prepare to meet thy God, O Israel; to receive him with readiness, submission, and delight, who comes with tidings of salvation. For lo, he that formeth the mountains, the great Creator of all, and who can make every mountain of difficulty a plain before the believer; and createth the wind, holding these turbulent servants under his command; and declareth unto man what is his thought, being the searcher of hearts, and revealing unto men, by his prophets, his own purposes concerning them, which are thoughts of peace, and not of evil; that maketh the morning darkness, changing prosperity into adversity, or the darkness morning, causing Christ, the day-star, to arise; and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, exalted above all, and treading down the proudest of his foes; the Lord, Jehovah, the God of Hosts is his name, to whom all must bow, in the way of mercy or judgment, and humble their souls at his feet.
The words are generally understood in a quite different sense, as a threatening of more terrible judgment, since the former visitations were ineffectual. They must now prepare to meet an offended God, coming forth to execute vengeance; and how would they be able to stand when he appeared, whose power was irresistible as his wrath was intolerable. It is our wisdom to prepare to meet God as our God, by faith, penitence, and prayer, before we are summoned to appear at his bar in an hour of death, or at the day of judgment.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Amos 4". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27