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The first is of the grasshoppers or locusts eating up the later grass of the land, which are stopped at the intercession of the prophet, ( Amos 7:1-3); the second is of fire the Lord called for to contend by, whose devouring flames are made to cease by the same interposition, ( Amos 7:4-6); and the other is of the plumbline, signifying the utter destruction of the people of Israel, according to the righteous judgment of God, ( Amos 7:7-9); upon the delivery of which prophecies and visions, the priest of Bethel forms a charge against the prophet to the king; and advises Amos to flee into Judea, and prophesy there, and not at Bethel, being willing to be rid of him at any rate, ( Amos 7:10-13); next follows the prophet’s vindication of himself showing his divine call to the prophetic office, and his mission and express order he had from the Lord to prophesy unto Israel, ( Amos 7:14,15); and concludes with a denunciation of divine judgments on the priest’s family, and upon the whole land of Israel, ( Amos 7:16,17).
Ver. 1 . Thus hath the Lord showed unto me , etc.] What follows in this and the two chapters, before the prophet delivered what he heard from the Lord; now what he saw, the same thing, the ruin of the ten tribes, is here expressed as before, but in a different form; before in prophecy, here in vision, the more to affect and work upon the hearts of the people: and, behold, he formed grasshoppers ; or “locusts” f188 , as the word is rendered, ( Isaiah 33:4); and so the Septuagint here, and other versions.
Kimchi interprets it, and, behold, a collection or swarm of locusts; and the Targum, a creation of them. Though Aben Ezra takes the word to be a verb, and not a noun, and the sense to be, agreeably to our version, he showed me the blessed God, who was forming locusts; it appeared to Amos, in the vision of prophecy, as if the Lord was making locusts, large and great ones, and many of them; not that this was really done, only visionally, and was an emblem of the Assyrian army, prepared and ready to devour the land of Israel; (see Joel 1:4 Nahum 3:17). And this was in the beginning of the shooting up of the latter growth; and, lo, [it was] the latter growth after the king’s mowings ; when the first grass was mowed down, and the first crop gathered in, for the use of the king’s cattle; as the later grass was just springing up, and promised a second crop, these grasshoppers or locusts were forming, which threatened the destruction of it. This must be towards the close of the summer, and when autumn was coming on, at which time naturalists tell us that locusts breed.
So Aristotle says, they bring forth at the going out of the summer; and of one sort of them he says, their eggs perish in the waters of autumn, or when it is a wet autumn; but in a dry autumn there is a large increase of them: and so Pliny says f190 , they breed in the autumn season and lie under the earth all the winter, and appear in the spring: and Columella observes f191 , that locusts are most suitably and commodiously fed with grass in autumn; which is called “cordum”, or the latter grass, that comes or springs late in the year; such as this now was. The Mahometans speak much of God being the Maker of locusts; they say he made them of the clay which was left at the formation of Adam; and represent him saying, I am God, nor is there any Lord of locusts besides me, who feed them, and send them for food to the people, or as a punishment to them, as I please: they call them the army of the most high God, and will not suffer any to kill them; (see Gill on “ Revelation 9:3”); whether all this is founded on this passage of Scripture, I cannot say; however, there is no reason from thence to make the locusts so peculiarly the workmanship of God as they do, since this was only in a visionary way; though it may be observed, that it is with great propriety, agreeable to the nature of these creatures, that God is represented as forming them at such a season of the year. Some, by “the king’s mowings”, understand the carrying captive the ten tribes by Shalmaneser king of Assyria; so Ribera; after which things were in a flourishing state, or at least began to be so, in the two tribes under Hezekiah, when they were threatened with ruin by the army of Sennacherib, from which there was a deliverance: but as this vision, and the rest, only respect the ten tribes of Israel, “the king’s mowings” of the first crop may signify the distresses of the people of Israel, in the times of Jehoahaz king of Israel, by Hazael and Benhadad kings of Syria, ( Kings 13:3,4,22); when things revived again, like the shooting up of the later grass, in the reign of Joash, and especially of Jeroboam his son, who restored the coast of Israel, the Lord having compassion on them, ( Kings 13:25 14:25,26); but after his death things grew worse; his son reigned but six months, and he that slew him but one; and in the reign of Menahem, that succeeded him, an invasion of the land was made by Pul king of Assyria, ( 2 Kings 15:19); which is generally thought to be intended here. Or else, as others, it may refer to the troubles in the interregnum, after the death of Jeroboam, to his son’s mounting the throne, the space of eleven years, when, and afterwards, Israel was in a declining state.
Ver. 2. And it came to pass, [that] when they had made an end of eating the grass of the land , etc.] That is, the grasshoppers or locusts; when in the vision it seemed to the prophet that almost all the grass of the land was eaten up, and they were going to seize upon the corn, and other fruits of the earth: this signifies not Sennacherib’s invasion of the land of Judea, but Pul’s invasion of the land of Israel, whose army seemed like these locusts; and spreading themselves over the land, threatened it with desolation, as these locusts seemed to have wholly consumed all the grass of the land; then the prophet said what follows: then I said, O Lord God, forgive, I beseech thee ; the sins of the people, as the Targum, which were the cause of these locusts coming, or of the Assyrian army invading the land; and the prophet prays that God would avert this judgment, signified in this vision, or remove it, which is often in Scripture meant by the forgiveness of sin, ( Exodus 32:31,32 Numbers 14:19 1 Kings 8:33,34,36,37,39); this is the business of the prophets and ministers of the Lord, to intercede for a people when ruin is near; and happy is that people, when they have such to stand up in the breach for them. The argument the prophet uses is, by whom shall Jacob arise? for he [is] small ; or “little” f193 ; like the first shooting up of the grass, after it has been own: or, as Noldius renders it, “how [otherwise] should Jacob stand?” and so Kimchi, how should there be a standing for him? that is, unless God forgives his sin, and turns away his wrath, how shall he stand up under the weight of his sins, which must lie upon him, unless forgiven? and how shall he bear the wrath and indignation of God for them? and so if any sinner is not forgiven, how shall he stand before God to serve and worship him now? or at his tribunal with confidence hereafter? or sustain his wrath and displeasure to all eternity? (see <19D003> Psalm 130:3,4); or, “who of” or “in Jacob shall stand” f195 ? not one will be left; all must be cut off, if God forgive not; for all are sinners, there are none without sin: or, “who shall stand for Jacob?” or intercede for him? it will be to no purpose, if God is inexorable: so the Targum, “who will stand and ask “pardon” for their sins?” or, “who will raise up Jacob?” from that low condition in which he is, or likely to be in, if God forgive not, and does not avert the judgment threatened, to a high and glorious state of prosperity and happiness; for, if all are cut off, there will be none left to be instruments of such a work: “for he [is] small”; few in number, and greatly weakened by one calamity or another; and, if this should take place, would be fewer and weaker still. So the church of Christ, which is often signified by Jacob, is sometimes in a very low estate; the number of converts few; has but a little strength to bear afflictions, perform duty, and withstand enemies; it is a day of small things with it, with respect to light and knowledge, and the exercise of grace, especially faith; when some like the prophet are concerned for it, by whom it shall arise; the God of Jacob can cause it to arise, and can raise up instruments for such service, and make his ministers, and the ministry of the word and ordinances, means of increasing the number, stature, spiritual light, knowledge, grace, and strength of his people.
Ver. 3. The Lord repented for this , etc.] He heard the prayer of the prophet, and at his intercession averted, the threatened judgment; thus the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much, ( James 5:16); this is spoken after the manner of men; as men, when they repent of a thing, desist from it, so the Lord desisted from going on with this judgment; he did not change his mind, but changed the dispensations of his providence according to his mind and will: it shall not be, saith the Lord ; these grasshoppers or locusts, the Assyrian army, shall not at this time destroy the land of Israel: Pul king of Assyria took a sum of money of the king of Israel, and so turned back, and stayed not in the land, ( 2 Kings 15:19,20).
Ver. 4. Thus hath the Lord showed unto me , etc.] Another vision after this manner: and, behold, the Lord God called to contend by fire ; gave out that he would have a controversy with his people Israel, and proclaimed the time when he would try the cause with them, and that by fire: or he called his family, as Jarchi; that is, his angels, as Kimchi, to cause fire to descend upon Israel, as upon Sodom and Gomorrah; so other Rabbins Kimchi mentions: or, as he interprets it, the scorching heat of the sun, like fire that restrained the rain, dried up the plants, and lessened the waters of the river, and so brought on a general drought, and in consequence famine: or rather a foreign army, involving them in war, burning their cities and towns; (see Amos 1:4,7,10,12,14); and it devoured the great deep ; it seemed, as if it did; as the fire from heaven, in Elijah’s time, licked up the water in the trench, ( 1 Kings 18:38); so this, coming at God’s command, seemed to dry up the whole ocean; by which may be meant the multitude of people, nations, and kingdoms, subdued by the Assyrians; (see Revelation 17:15); and did eat up a part ; a part of a field, as Jarchi and Aben Ezra; of the king’s field, ( Amos 7:1); as Kimchi; showing, as he observes, that the reigning king was a bad king, and that this was for his sin: or rather a part of the land of Israel; and so refers, as is generally thought, to Tiglathpileser’s invasion of the land, who carried captive a part of it, ( Kings 15:29).
Ver. 5 . Then said I, O Lord God, cease, I beseech thee , etc.] From destroying the land; suffer not this calamity to proceed any further; using the same argument as before: by whom shall Jacob arise? for he [is] small ; (see Gill on “ Amos 7:2”).
Ver. 6 . The Lord repented for this , etc.] He heard the prophet’s prayer, and desisted from going on with the threatened destruction: this also shall not be, saith the Lord God ; the whole land shall not be destroyed, only a part of it carried captive.
Ver. 7 . Thus he showed me , etc.] A third vision, which was in the following manner: and, behold, the Lord stood upon a wall [made] by a plumbline, with a plumbline in his hand : this “wall” was the people of Israel, who were built up as a wall, firm and strong; and so stood against their enemies, while supported by the Lord, and he stood by them. The Septuagint version is, “an adamantine wall”. In their constitution, both civil and ecclesiastic, they were formed according to the good and righteous laws of God, which may be signified by the plumbline; and so the Targum renders it, “the wall of judgment”. And now the Lord appears standing upon this wall, to trample it down, and not to support it; and with a plumbline in his hand, to examine and try whether this wall was as it was first erected; whether it did not bulge out, and vary from its former structure, and was not according to the line and rule of his divine word, which was a rule of righteousness.
Ver. 8. And the Lord said unto me, Amos, what seest thou ? etc.] This question was put to him, the rather, since he was silent, and did not upon this vision, as the former, make any supplication to the Lord; as also, because this vision portended something of moment and importance, which he would have the prophet attend to: and I said, a plumbline ; the same word as before, and is differently rendered, as already observed. The Vulgate Latin version renders it, “a plasterer’s” or “mason’s trowel”; with which they lay their plaster and mortar on in building: the Septuagint, an adamant: and which, by Pliny f198 , is called “anachites”; a word in sound near to this here used: the Targum renders it, “judgment”: but Jarchi and Aben Ezra observe, that in the Arabic tongue it signifies lead or tin, as it does f199 ; and so a line with lead at the end of it; then said the Lord, behold, I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel ; take an exact account of their actions, and see how they agree or disagree with the rule of the word; and in the most strict and righteous manner deal with them for their sins and transgressions, “lay judgment to the line, and righteousness to the plummet”, ( Isaiah 28:17); I will not again pass by them any more ; wink at their sins, and overlook their transgressions, by not correcting and punishing for them; or will not pardon them, but inflict punishment on them. So the Targum, “behold, I will exercise judgment in the midst of my people Israel, and I will not add any more to pardon them.”
Though some understand it of God’s making such an utter end of them, that he should no more “pass through them” f200 , to destroy them, having done it at once, and thoroughly.
Ver. 9. And the high places of Isaac shall be desolate , etc.] Such as the ten tribes of Israel, who descended from Isaac, built at Beersheba, in imitation of Isaac, and pleading his example; who worshipped there, though not idols, as they, but the true God; and in commemoration of his being bound upon an altar on Mount Moriah: but these, as the Septuagint version renders it, were “high places of laughter”, ridiculous in the eyes of the Lord, despised by him, and so should be made desolate: and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste ; the temples built for the calves at Daniel and Bethel, and other places: and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword ; or, as the Targum, “I will raise up against the house of Jeroboam those that slay with the sword;” this was fulfilled by Shallum, who conspired against Zachariah the son of Jeroboam, and slew him, and reigned in his stead, which put an end to the family of Jeroboam, ( 2 Kings 15:10).
Ver. 10. Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel , etc.] The Targum calls him the prince or president of Bethel; and the word used signifies both a prince and a priest; and very probably this man had the care of the civil as well as religious matters in Bethel. Aben Ezra styles him the priest of Baal; he was one that succeeded the priests that Jeroboam the son of Nebat placed here, to offer sacrifices to the calf he set up in this place, ( 1 Kings 12:32); who hearing the above three visions of Amos delivered, and fearing that he would alienate the people from the idolatrous worship he was at the head of, and frighten them from an attendance on it, which would lessen his esteem with the people, and also his worldly gain and profit; and observing that Amos did not make any intercession for the averting of the judgment threatened in the last vision, as in the other two, and which particularly concerned the king’s family: he sent to Jeroboam king of Israel ; either letters or messengers, or both; who, it seems, was not at this time at Bethel, but at some other place; perhaps Samaria, which was not a great way from hence: saying, Amos hath conspired against thee in the midst of the land of Israel ; he speaks of Amos as if he was well known to the king, and perhaps he might be, having long prophesied in the land of Israel, and near the court; and represents him as a seditious person, not as affecting the crown and kingdom himself, but as stirring up a spirit, of rebellion among the people; taking off their affections from their prince, and them from their allegiance to him, by representing him as a wicked person that would in a little time be cut off; and this he did not privately, and in a corner, but publicly, in the midst of the land, and before all the people of Israel; and this was no new and unusual thing to represent good man, and especially ministers of the word, as enemies to the civil government, when none are truer friends to it, or more quiet under it: the land is not able to bear all his words ; either to withstand the power of them; they will have such an influence upon the people, if timely care is not taken, as to cause them both to reject the established religion and worship at Daniel and Bethel, and to rise up in arms against the civil government, and dethrone him the king; such terrible things he says to the people, as will frighten them, and put them upon taking such measures as these: or else the prophet’s words were so intolerable, that his good subjects, the inhabitants of the land could not bear them; and if he did not give orders himself to take away his life, they would rise up against him, and dispatch him themselves.
Ver. 11. For thus Amos saith, Jeroboam shall die by the sword , etc.] Which was not saying truth; for Amos said not that Jeroboam should die by the sword, but that God would raise up the sword against his house or family; nor did Jeroboam die by the sword, but his son Zachariah did: and Israel shall surely be led away captive out of their own land ; this was true; Amos did say this, and he afterwards confirms it. This is the amount of the charge brought against the prophet, which has some truth and some falsehood mixed together; and by which method the priest hoped to gain his point, and get the prophet either banished or put to death.
Ver. 12 . Also Amaziah said unto Amos , etc.] Either at the same time; or, it may be, after he had waited for the king’s answer, and received none; or what did not come up to his expectations and wishes. We have no account of any answer the king returned; who either gave no heed to the representations of the priest, or had a better opinion of, he prophet, and did not credit the things imputed to him; which the priest observing, took another way to get rid of the prophet, and that by flattery: O thou seer ; that seest visions, and foretells things to come. This title, which of right belonged to him, and is given to the true prophets of God sometimes, is here given to Amos, either seriously or ironically: go, flee thee away into the land of Judah ; to which he belonged, and where the temple stood, and the true worship of God was performed; and where the king, princes, and people, were on his side of the question; and where his prophecies would be received, and he caressed for them, being against the ten tribes, with whom they were at variance, and where also he would be safe; for he suggests, that, in giving this advice, he consulted his good and safety; for, if he stayed here long, King Jeroboam would certainly take away his life; and therefore he advised him to flee with all haste to his own country: and there eat bread, and prophesy there : he took him for a mercenary man like himself, and that he prophesied for bread; which he intimates he would never be able to get in the land of Israel, but in all probability might in the land of Judea.
Ver. 13. But prophesy not again any more at Bethel , etc.] He might prophesy any where, if he did not there, for what the priest cared, that so his honour and interest were not hurt. The reasons he gave were, for it [is] the king’s chapel ; or “sanctuary” f201 ; where a temple was built for the idol calf, and where the king worshipped it, and attended all other religious service: and it [is] the king’s court ; or “the house of the kingdom” f202 ; the seat of it, where the king had a royal palace, and sometimes resided here, and kept his court, as well as at Samaria; often coming hither to worship, it being nearer to him than Dan, where the other calf was placed; intimating hereby that the king would never suffer such a troublesome man as he to be so near him; and by prophesying to interrupt him, either in his religious or civil affairs; and therefore advises him by all means to depart, if he had any regard to his life or peace.
Ver. 14 . Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah , etc.] With much freedom, boldness, and intrepidity, and yet with modesty and humility; not at all moved by his frowns or his flattery: I [was] no prophet, neither [was] I a prophet’s son : he was not a prophet originally, or from his youth, as Kimchi; he was not born and bred one; neither his father was a prophet, by whom he could get any instructions in the mystery of prophesying; nor was he a disciple of any of the prophets, or brought up in any of their schools as some were; he was no prophet till the Lord called him immediately, at once, from his secular employment to this office; and therefore did not take it up to get a livelihood by Jarchi and Aben Ezra interpret it, that he was not one of the false prophets that prophesied for hire, and took a reward: but I [was] an herdsman, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit ; that is, originally: this was the employment he was brought up in from his youth, and was in it when he was called to be a prophet; he looked after cattle, both great and small; and at a certain time of the year used, to gather sycamore fruit, which was a kind of figs; and by, its name had the resemblance both of figs and mulberries. Some take it to be what were called Egyptian figs; these he gathered, either for the use of his masters, or for food for himself, or for the cattle, or both: or he was an “opener” of them, as the Septuagint; he cut, them, and made incisions in them; for, as Pliny f203 , Dioscorides f204 , and Theophrastus observe, this fruit must be cut or scratched, either with the nail, or with iron, or it will not ripen; but, four days after being scratched or cut, will become ripe. Mr. Norden f206 , a late traveller in Egypt, has given us a very particular account of this tree and its fruit. “This sycamore (he says) is of the height of a beech, and bears its fruit in a manner quite different from other trees; it has them on the trunk itself, which shoots out little sprigs in form of grape stalks; at the end of which grow the fruit close to one another, almost like bunches of grapes. The tree is always green, and bears fruit several times in the year, without observing any certain seasons: for I have seen (says he) some sycamores that have given fruit two months after others. The fruit has the figure and smell of real figs, but is inferior to them in the taste, having a disgusting sweetness. Its colour is a yellow, inclining to an ochre, shadowed by a flesh colour. In the inside it resembles the common figs, excepting that it has a blackish colouring with yellow spots. This sort of tree is pretty common in Egypt; the people for the greater part live upon its fruit, and think themselves well regaled when they have a piece of bread, a couple of sycamore figs, and a pitcher filled with water from the Nile.”
This account in several things agrees with what Pliny and Solinus f208 relate of this tree and its fruit; very likely there might be many of these trees in Judea; there seem to have been great numbers of them in Solomon’s time, ( 1 Kings 10:27); and perhaps it was one of these that Zacchaeus climbed, in order to see Christ, ( Luke 19:4); for this sort of trees delight in vales and plains, such as were the plains of Jericho; and in the Talmud we read of sycamore trees in Jericho; and of the men of Jericho allowing the branches of them to be cut down for sacred uses.
These also grew in lower Galilee, but not in upper Galilee; and that they were frequent in the land of Israel appears from the rules the Misnic doctors give about the planting, and cutting them down; and in the opening of these trees, and making incisions in them, and in gathering the fruit of them, Amos might be concerned. Kimchi and Ben Melech say the word signifies to “mix”, and that his business was to mix these together with other fruit. Aben Ezra observes, that in the Arabic language it signifies to dry; and then his work was, after he had gathered them, to lay them a drying. Some render the word a “searcher” of them; as if his employment was to look out for them, and seek them where they were to be got: however, be this as it will, the prophet suggests that he had been used to a low life, and to mean fare, with which he was contented, and did not take up this business of prophesying for bread, and could return to his former employment without any regret, to get a maintenance, if so was the will of God. The Targum gives it a different sense, “for I am a master of cattle, and have sycamores in the fields;” and so Jarchi, Kimchi, and Ben Melech, represent him as suggesting that he was rich, and had no need of bread to be given him, or to prophesy for that.
Ver. 15. And the Lord took me as I followed the flock , etc.] Or “from behind” it f212 ; a description of a shepherd, such an one Amos was, and in this employ when the Lord called him, and took him to be a prophet; he did not seek after it, nor did he take this honour to himself; by which it appears that his mission was divine, and that he did not enter on this work with lucrative views: thus God took David in a like state of life, and made him king of Israel; and Elisha from the plough, and made him a prophet: and Christ several of his disciples from being fishermen, and made them fishers of men, or ministers of the word; and so their call appeared more clear and manifest; and the Lord said unto me ; in a vision or dream by night; or by an articulate voice he heard; or by an impulse upon his spirit, which comes from the Spirit of God: go, prophesy unto my people Israel ; for so they were by profession, and notwithstanding their apostasy; as yet they were not tallied “Loammi”, ( Hosea 1:9); to these the prophet was bid to go out of the land of Judea, where he was a herdsman, and prophesy in the name of the Lord to them; wherefore what he did was in obedience to the command of God, and he did but his duty; and what he in this verse and ( Amos 7:14) declares, is a sufficient vindication of himself, his character, and conduct; and having done this, he has something to say to the priest, as follows.
Ver. 16. Now therefore hear thou the word of the Lord , etc.] Which I have from him concerning thee, and which he has pronounced upon thee and thy family: thou sayest, prophesy not against Israel ; when God has bid me prophesy: and drop not [thy word] against the house of Isaac ; say nothing against it, though in ever so soft and gentle a manner: it designs the same thing as before, only in different words; and is a prohibition of the prophet to prophesy against the ten tribes that descended from Isaac, in the line of Jacob. So the Targum paraphrases it, “thou shalt not teach against the house of Isaac;” or deliver out any prophecy or doctrine that is against them, or threatens them with any calamity. Jarchi says the phrase is expressive of prophecy; (see Deuteronomy 32:2 Ezekiel 21:2).
Ver. 17 . Therefore thus saith the Lord , etc.] For withstanding the prophet of the Lord, and forbidding him to speak in his name against the idolatry of Israel, as well as for his own idolatry: thy wife shall be an harlot in the city : either of Bethel or Samaria; either through force, being ravished by the soldiers upon taking and plundering the city; so Theodoret and others: or rather of choice; either, through poverty, to get bread, or through a vicious inclination, and that in a public manner: the meaning is, that she should be a common strumpet; which must be a great affliction to him, and a just punishment for his idolatry, or spiritual adultery; this must be before the siege and taking of Samaria, since by that time the priest’s wife would be too old to be used as a harlot: and thy sons and thy daughters shall fall by the sword ; either of Shallum, who smote Zachariah the son of Jeroboam with the sword, before the people, and very probably many of his friends with him, among whom this family was; or of Menahem, who slew Shallum, and destroyed many places that opened not to him, with their inhabitants, and ripped up the women with child; or in the after invasions by Pul, Tiglathpileser, and Shalmaneser, ( 2 Kings 15:10,14,16,19,29 17:5,6); and thy land shall be divided by line ; either the whole land of Israel be lived in, or the land that was in the possession of this priest, and was his own property; this should be measured with a line, and be parted among foreigners, that should invade the land, and subdue it; a just punishment of the sins he had been guilty of, in getting large possessions in an ill manner: and thou shall die in a polluted land ; not in his own land, reckoned holy, but in a Heathen land, which was accounted defiled, because the inhabitants of it were uncircumcised and idolaters, and he was no better; perhaps the land of Assyria, whither he might with others be carried captive; or some other land he was forced to flee into: and Israel shall surely go into captivity forth of his land ; as he had before prophesied, and here confirms it; and which was fulfilled in the times of Hoshea king of Israel, by Shalmaneser king of Assyria, ( 2 Kings 17:6).