John Calvin, Commentary on Amos



Commentaries on the Twelve Minor Prophets by John Calvin.

Now first translated from the original Latin, by the Rev. John Owen,
vicar of Thrussington, Leicestershire.

Volume Second. Joel, Amos, Obadiah

WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, 1950, Michigan.
Printed in the United States of America.





The Commentaries of John Calvin on the Prophet Amos


Lecture Forty-ninth.
    
    He shows himself the time when he began to discharge his office
of a teacher; but it does not appear how long he prophesied. The
Jews indeed, think that his course was long; he continued his
office, as they write, under four kings. But he mentions here only
the reigns of Uzziah and Jeroboam. His purpose was to mark the time
when he began to execute his office of a Prophet, but not to express
how long he labored for God in that office; and why he mentions only
the beginning, we shall in its proper place notice. It is, indeed,
certain, that he commenced his work under king Uzziah, and under
king Jeroboam: and this also is to be noticed, that he was appointed
a Prophet to the kingdom of Israel. For though he arose from the
tribe of Judah, yet the Lord, as we shall see set him over the
kingdom of Israel. He sometimes turns his discourse to the tribe of
Judah, but only, as it were, accidentally, and as occasion led him;
for he mainly addressed the Ten Tribes. I now come to his words.


Chapter 1.

Amos 1:1
The words of Amos, who was among the herdmen of Tekoa, which he saw
concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the
days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel, two years before
the earthquake.
    
    Amos boasts not here, in speaking of his own words, that he
adduced anything as from himself, but avows himself to be only the
minister of God; for he immediately adds that he received them by a
vision. God himself raised up the Prophets and employed their
labour; And, at the same time, guided them by his Spirit, that they
might not announce anything but what had been received from him, but
faithfully deliver what had proceeded from him alone. These two
things then, well agree together, - that the prophecies which follow
were the words of Amos and that they were words revealed to him from
above; for the word "chazah" which Amos uses, properly means, to see
by revelation; and these revelations were called prophecies.
    But he says, that he "was among the shepherds of Tekoa". This
was a mean towns and had been shortly before surrounded by walls and
had ever been previously a village. He then mentions not his
country, because it was celebrated, or as though he could derive
thereby more authority or renown: but, on the contrary he calls
himself a Tekoan, because God drew him forth from an obscure place,
that he might set him over the whole kingdom of Israel. They are
therefore mistaken, as I think, who suppose that Amos was called one
of the shepherds on account of his riches, and the number of his
flocks; for when I weigh every thing, I see not how could this be. I
indeed allow that "nokdim" are not only shepherds who do the work,
but men possessing flocks, carrying on a large business; for the
king of Moab is said to have been a "noked", and that he fed large
flocks; but it was by hired shepherds. As to the Prophets I do not
see how this can be applied to him; for Tekoa was not a place famous
for wealth; and as I have said, it was a small town, and of no
opulence. I do not then doubt, but that Amos, by saying that he was
a shepherd, pours contempt on the pride of the king of Israel, and
of the whole people; for as they had not deigned to hear the
Prophets of God, a keeper of sheep was sent to them.
    It must be further noticed, that he is not called a shepherd of
Tekoa, but "from Tekoa"; and interpreters have not observed this
preposition. We shall see in chapter seven, that though Amos sprang
from the tribe of Judah, he yet dwelt in the kingdom of Israel: for
the priest, after he had slandered him before the king, bade him to
go elsewhere, and to eat his own bread, and not to disturb the peace
of the country. He therefore dwelt there as a stranger in a land not
his own. Had he been rich, and possessing much wealth, he would have
surely dwelt at home: why should he change his place? Since then it
appears evident, that he was a sojourner in the land of Israel, he
was, no doubt, one of the common people. So that his low condition
was intended for this purpose, - that God might thereby repress the
arrogance of the king of Israel, and of the whole people; for we
know how much inflated they were on account of the fruitfulness of
their land and their riches. Hence Amos was set over them as a
Prophet, being a shepherd, whom God had brought from the sheepfolds.
    The time also is to be observed, when he is said to have seen
these prophecies; it was "in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, two
years before the earth-quake, and in the days of Jeroboam, the son
of Joash". What the state of that time was, I described in
explaining the prophecies of Hosea. Sacred history relates that the
kingdom of Israel flourished under the second Jeroboam; for though
he was an ungodly and wicked man, yet God spared then his people,
and caused that not only the ten tribes should remain entire, but
also that Jeroboam should enlarge his kingdom; for he had recovered
some cities which had been lost. The state of the people was then
tranquil, and their prosperity was such as filled them with pride,
as it commonly happens. Uzziah also so reigned over the tribe of
Judah, that nothing adverse prevailed there. Shortly after followed
the earthquake. The time this earthquake happened, sacred history
does not mention. But Josephus says, that it was when Uzziah seized
on the priestly office, and was smitten with leprosy. He therefore
makes that stroke of leprosy and the earthquake to be at the same
time. But Amos, as well as other Prophets, spoke of it as a thing
well known: thus Zechariah, after the people's return, refers to it
in chapter 14:, 'There shall be to you a terror, such as was in the
earthquake under king Uzziah.' He states not the year, but it was
then commonly known.
    Then the Prophet meant nothing more than to show by this event,
that he denounced God's vengeance on the Israelites, when they were
in prosperity, and were immersed, as it were, in their pleasures.
And satiety, as it ever happens, made them ferocious; hence he was
not well received; but his authority is hereby more confirmed to us;
for he did not flatter the people in their prosperity, but severely
reproved them; and he also predicted what could not be foreseen by
human judgment, nay, what seemed to be altogether improbable. Had he
not then been endued with the heavenly Spirit, he could not have
foretold future calamities, when the Jews, as I have already said,
as well as the Israelites, and others, promised themselves all kinds
of prosperity; for God then spared the kingdom of Israel and the
kingdom of Judah, nor did he execute his judgment on neighboring
nations.
    We must now observe this also, that the words which he "saw"
were "concerning Israel". We hence learn, as I have already said
that the Prophet was specifically appointed for the Israelites,
though born elsewhere. But how and on what occasion he migrated into
the kingdom of Israel, we know not; and as to the subject in hand,
it matters not much: but it is probable, as I have said before, that
this was designedly done, that God might check the insolence of the
people, who flattered themselves so much in their prosperity. Since,
then, the Israelites had hitherto rejected God's servants, they were
now constrained to hear a foreigner and a shepherd condemning them
for their sins, and exercising the office of a judge: he who
proclaims, an impending destruction is a celestial herald. This
being the case, we hence see that God had not in vain employed the
ministry of this Prophet; for he is wont to choose the weak things
of the world to confound the strong, (1 Cor. 1) and he takes
Prophets and teachers from the lowest grade to humble the dignity of
the world, and puts the invaluable treasure of his doctrine in
earthly vessels, that his power, as Paul teaches us, may be made
more evident (1 Cor. 4.)
    But there vas a special reason as to the Prophet Amos; for he
was sent on purpose severely to reprove the ten tribes: and, as we
shall see, he handled them with great asperity. For he was not
polite, but proved that he had to do with those who were not to be
treated as men, but as brute beasts; yea, worse in obstinacy than
brute beasts; for there is some docility in oxen and cows, and
especially in sheep, for they hear the voice of their shepherd, and
follow where he leads them. The Israelites were all stubbornness,
and wholly untamable. It was then necessary to set over them a
teacher who would not treat them courteously, but exercise towards
them his native rusticity. Let us now proceed; for of the kingdom of
Uzziah and of Jeroboam the son of Joash, the second of that name, we
have spoken on the first chapter of Hosea. It now follows -

Amos 1:2
And he said, The LORD will roar from Zion, and utter his voice from
Jerusalem; and the habitations of the shepherds shall mourn, and the
top of Carmel shall wither.
    
    He employs here the same words which we explained yesterday in
the last chapter of Joel; but for another purpose. By saying,
'Jehovah from Zion shall roar,' Joel intended to set forth the power
of God, who had been for a time silent, as though he was not able to
repel his enemies. As God was then despised by the ungodly, Joel
declares that he had power, by which he could instantly break down
and destroy all his enemies and defend his Church and chosen people.
But now Amos, as he addresses the Israelites, does here defend the
pure worship of God from all contempt and declares to the
Israelites, that how much soever they wearied themselves in their
superstitions they still worshipped their own devices; for God
repudiated all the religion they thought they had. There is, then,
to be understood an implied or indirect contrast between mount Zion
and the temples which the first Jeroboam built in Dan and Bethel.
The Israelites imagined that they worshipped the God of their
feather Abraham; and there were in those places greater pomps than
at Jerusalem. But the Prophet Amos pours contempt on all these
fictitious forms of worship; as though he said, "Ye indeed boast
that the God of Abraham is honored and worshipped by you; but ye are
degenerate, ye are covenant breakers, ye are perfidious towards God;
he dwells not with you, for the sanctuaries, which you have made for
yourselves, are nothing but brothels; God has chosen no habitation
for himself, except mount Zion; there is his perpetual rest: Roar
then will Jehovah from Zion."
    We now see what the Prophet had in view: for he not only shows
here, that God was the author of his doctrine, but at the same time
distinguishes between the true God and the idols, which the first
Jeroboam made, when by this artifice he intended to withdraw the ten
tribes from the house of David and wholly to alienate them from the
tribe of Judah: it was then that he set up the calves in Dan and
Bethel. The Prophet now shows that all these superstitions are
condemned by the true God: "Jehovah then shall roar from Zion, he
will utter his voice from Jerusalem". He no doubt wished here to
terrify the Israelites, who thought they had peace with God. Since,
then, they abused his long-suffering, Amos now says that they would
find at length that he was not asleep. "When God then shall long
bear with your iniquities, he will at last rise up for judgment."
    By roaring is signified, as we said yesterday, the terrible
voice of God; but the Prophet here speaks of God's voice, rather
than of what are called actual judgments really executed, that the
Israelites might learn that the examples of punishments which God
executes in the world happen not by chance, or at random, but
proceed from his threatening; in short, the Prophet intimates that
all punishments which God inflicts on the ungodly and the despisers
of his word, are only the executions of what the Prophets
proclaimed, in order that men, should there be any hope of their
repentance, might anticipate the destruction which they hear to be
nigh. The Prophet then commends here very highly the truth of what
God teaches, by saying that it is not what vanishes, but what is
accomplished; for when he destroys nations and kingdoms, it comes to
pass according to prophecies: "God then shall utter his voice from
Jerusalem".
    Then it follows, "And mourn shall the habitations of
shepherds". "'Aval" means to mourn, and also to be laid waste, and
to perish. Either sense will well suit this place. If we read,
"mourn", &c., then we must render the following thus, "and ashamed
shall be the head, or top, of Carmel". But if we read, "perish",
&c., then the verb "bosh" must be translated, "wither"; and as we
know that there were rich pastures on Carmel, I prefer this second
rendering: "wither then shall the top of Carmel"; and the first
clause must be taken thus, "and perish shall the habitations of
shepherds".
    As to what is intended, we understand the Prophet's meaning to
be, that whatever was pleasant and valuable in the kingdom of Israel
would now shortly perish, because God would utter his voice from
Zion. The meaning then is this, - "Ye now lie secure, but God will
soon, and even suddenly, put forth his power to destroy you; and
this he will do, because he denounces on you destruction now by me,
and will raise up other Prophets to be heralds of his vengeance:
this will God execute by foreign and heathen nations; but yet your
destruction will be according to these threatening which ye now
count as nothing. Ye indeed think them to be empty words; but God
will at length show that what he declares will be fully
accomplished."
    With respect to Carmel, there were two mountains of this name;
but as they were both very fertile, there is no need to take much
trouble to inquire of which Carmel the Prophet speaks. Sufficient is
what has been said, - that such a judgment is denounced on the
kingdom of Israel as would consume all its fatness; for as we shall
hereafter see, and the same thing has been already stated by the
Prophet Hosea, there was great fertility as to pastures in that
kingdom.
    We must, at the same time, observe, that the Prophet, who was a
shepherd, speaks according to his own character, and the manner of
life which he followed. Another might have said, 'Mourn shall the
whole country, tremble shall the palaces,' or something like this;
but the Prophet speaks of mount Carmel, and of the habitations of
shepherds, for he was a shepherd. His doctrine no doubt was
despised, and many profane men probably said, "What! he thinks that
he is still with his cows and with his sheep; he boasts that he is
God's prophet, and yet he is ever engrossed by his stalls and his
sheepfolds." It is then by no means improbable, but that he was thus
derided by scornful men: but he purposely intended to blunt their
petulance, by mingling with what he said as a Prophets those kinds
of expressions which savored of his occupation as a shepherd. Let us
now proceed -

Amos 1:3-5
3 Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Damascus, and for
four, I will not turn away [the punishment] thereof; because they
have threshed Gilead with threshing instruments of iron:
4 But I will send a fire into the house of Hazael, which shall
devour the palaces of Benhadad.
5 I will break also the bar of Damascus, and cut off the inhabitant
from the plain of Aven, and him that holdeth the sceptre from the
house of Eden: and the people of Syria shall go into captivity unto
Kir, saith the LORD.
    
    It is singular that Amos said that his words were concerning
Israel, and that he should now turn to speak of Damascus and the
country of Syria. This seems inconsistent; for why does he not
perform the office committed to him? why does he not reprove the
Israelites? why does he not threaten them? why does he not show
their sins? and why does he speak of the destruction then nigh to
the people of Syria? But it is right here to consider what his
design was. He shows briefly, in the last verse, that ruin was nigh
the Israelites; for God, who had hitherto spared them, was now
resolved to ascend his tribunal. But now, that he might better
prepare the Israelites, he shows that God, as a judge, would call
all the neighboring nations to an account. For had the Prophet
threatened the Israelites only, they might have thought that what
they suffered was by chance, when they saw the like things happening
to their neighbors: "How is it credible that these evils and
calamities have flowed from God's vengeance, since the Idumeans, the
Moabites, the Ammonites, the Syrians, and the Sidonians, are
implicated in these evils in common with ourselves? For if God's
hand pursues us, it is the same with them: and if it is fate, that
with blind force exercises its rule over the Moabites, the Idumeans,
and the Syrians, the same thing, doubtless, is to be thought of our
case." Thus all the authority of the Prophet must have lost its
power, except the Israelites were made to know that God is the judge
of all nations.
    We must also bear in mind, that the kingdom of Israel was laid
waste, together with other neighboring countries, as war had spread
far and wide; for the Assyrian, like a violent storm, had extended
through the whole of that part of the world. Not only, then, the
Israelites were distressed by adversities at that time, but all the
nations of which Amos prophesied. It was hence necessary to add the
catalogue which we here find, that the Israelites might have as many
confirmations respecting God's vengeance, as the examples which were
presented to their eyes, in the dire calamities which everywhere
prevailed. This is to be borne in mind. And then the Prophet
regarded another thing: If the Idumeans, the Moabites, the Syrians,
and Ammonites, were to be treated so severely, and the Prophet had
not connected the Israelites with them, they might have thought that
they were to be exempted from the common punishments because God
would be propitious to them; for hypocrites ever harden themselves
the more, whenever God spates them: "See, the Ammonites and the
Moabites are punished; the Idumeans, the Syrians, and other nations,
are visited with judgment: God then is angry with all these; but we
are his children, for he is indulgent to us." But the Prophet puts
here the Israelites in the same bundle with the Moabites, the
Idumeans, and other heathen nations; as though he said, "God will
not spare your neighbours; but think not that ye shall be exempt
from his vengeance, when they shall be led to punishment; I now
declare to you that God will be the judge of you all together."
    We now apprehend the design of the Prophet. He wished here to
set before the eyes of the Israelites the punishment of others to
awaken them, and also to induce them to examine themselves for we
often see, that those who are intractable and refractory in their
disposition, when directly addressed are not very attentive; but
when they hear of the sins of others, and especially when they hear
something of punishment, they will attend. The Prophet therefore
designed by degrees to lead the Israelites to a teachable state of
mind, for he knew them to be torpid in their indulgences, and also
blinded by presumption, so that they could not be easily brought
under the yoke: hence he sets before them the punishment which was
soon to fall on neighbouring nations.
    We must yet observe that there was another reason I do not
throw aside what I have already mentioned; but the Prophet no doubt
had this also in view, - that God would punish the Syrians, because
they cruelly raged against the Israelites especially against Gilead
and its inhabitants. As God, then, would inflict so grievous a
punishment on the Syrians, because they so cruelly treated the
inhabitants of Gilead, what was to be expected by the Israelites
themselves who had been insolent towards God, who had violated his
worship who had robbed him of his honor, who had in their turn
destroyed one another! For, as we shall hereafter see, there was
among them no equity, no humanity; they had forgotten all reason.
Since, then, the Israelites were such, how could they hope that so
many and so detestable crimes should go unpunished, when they saw
that the Syrians, though uncircumcised, were not to be spared,
because they so cruelly treated professed enemies, on whom they
lawfully made war?
    I now come to the words of the Prophet: "Thus saith Jehovah,
For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, will not be
propitious to it; literally, "I sill not convert it": but I take
this actively that God would not turn himself to mercy, or that he
would not be propitious to Damascus. We know that Damascus was the
capital of Syria; And the Prophet here, by mentioning a part for the
whole, threatens the whole people, and summons all the Syrians to
God's tribunal, because they had inhumanely treated, as we shall
see, the city of Gilead. But he says, God will "not be propitious
for three and four transgressions of Damascus". Some take this
meaning, "For three transgressions I have been propitious, for four
I will not be." But there is no need of adding anything to the
Prophet's words; for the most suitable sense here is that for the
many sins of Damascus God would not be propitious to it: and the
Prophet, I have no doubt, intended by the two numbers to set forth
the irreclaimable perverseness of the Syrians. Seven in Scripture is
an indefinite number, and is taken, as it is well known, to express
what is countless. By saying then, three and four transgressions, it
is the same as if he had said seven: but the Prophet more strikingly
intimates the progress the Syrians made in their transgressions,
until they became so perverse that there was no hope of repentance.
This then is the reason, that God declares that he would no more
forgive the Syrians, inasmuch as without measure or limit they burst
forth into transgressions and ceased not, though a time for change
was given them. This is the true meaning. And the Prophet repeats
the same form of speech in speaking of Gaza, of Amman, of Edom, and
of other nations.
    Let us learn from this place, that God, whom the world regards
as too cruel, when he takes vengeance on sins, shows really and by
sure proof the truth of what he declares so often of himself in
Scripture, and that is, that he bears long and does not quickly take
vengeance: though men are worthy to perish yet the Lord suspends his
judgments. We have a remarkable proof of this in these prophecies;
for the Prophet speaks not only of one people but of many. Hence God
endured many transgressions not only in the Syrians, but also in
other nations: there was not then a country in which a testimony to
God's forbearance did not exist. It hence appears, that the world
unjustly complains of too much rigor, when God takes vengeance, for
he ever waits till iniquity, as it was stated yesterday, reaches its
highest point.
    There is besides presented to us here a dreadful spectacle of
sins among so many nations. At the same time, when we compare that
age with ours, it is certain that greater integrity existed then:
all kinds of evils so overflow at this day, that compared with the
present, the time of Amos was the golden age; and yet we hear him
declaring here, that the people of Judah and of Israel, and all the
other nations, were monstrously wicked, so that God could not bring
them to repentance. For he testifies not here in vain, that he would
punish wickedness wholly obstinate since they had not turned to him,
who had advanced to the number seven; that is, who had sinned, as it
has been before stated, without measure or limits: and this ought
also to be noticed in the Prophet's words; but I cannot now proceed
farther.
    
Prayer.
    
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou seest us to be of a disposition so
hard and rebellious, that we are not, without great difficulty,
drawn to thee, - O grant, that we may at least be subdued by the
threatenings thou daily denouncest on us, and be so subdued, that
being also drawn by thy word, we may give up ourselves to thee, and
not only suffer ourselves to be constrained by punishments and
collections, but also obey thee with a willing mind, and most
readily offer ourselves to thee as a sacrifice of obedience, so that
being ruled by the Spirit of thy Son, we may at length attain that
blessed rest, which has been prepared for us by the same thy Son our
Lord. Amen.


Lecture Fiftieth.

    We explained in yesterday's Lecture, that what the Prophet
means by the three and four transgressions of Damascus, is perverse
and incurable wickedness; for God here declares that he had borne
long enough with the sins of Damascus, and that now he is in a
manner forced to proceed to extreme rigor, seeing that there was no
hope of amendment. But what follows may seem strange; for
immediately the Prophet subjoins, "Because they have threshed Gilead
with iron wains", or serrated machines. He records here only one
wickedness: where, then, were the seven of which he spoke? The
answer may be easily given. By naming the three and four sins of
Damascus, he means not different kinds of sins, but rather the
perverseness which we have mentioned; for they had been extremely
rebellious against God, and God had suspended his vengeance, till it
became evident that they were unhealable. It was, therefore, not
necessary to mention here seven different sins; for it was enough
that Damascus, which means the kingdom of Syria, was held bound by
such a degree of obstinacy, that no remedy could be applied to its
transgressions; for it had for a long time tried the patience of
God.
    Now the Prophet subjoins, "I will send fire unto the house of
Hazael, which will devour the palaces of Ben-hadad". The Prophet
speaks still of the kingdom of Syria; for we know that both
Ben-hadad and Hazael were kings of Syria. But Jerome is much
mistaken, who thinks that Ben-hadad was here put in the second
place, as if he had been the successor of Hazael, while sacred
history relates that Hazael came to Elisha when Ben-hadad was ill in
his bed, (2 Kings 8: 9;) and he was sent to request an answer. Now
the Prophet declared that Hazael would be the king of Syria, and
declared this not without tears; for he pitied his own people, of
which this Syrian would be the destroyer. After he returned home, he
strangled Ben-hadad, and took to himself the royal dignity. But it
is common enough in Scripture to speak of a thing present, and then,
as in this place, to add what has past, "I will send fire into the
house of Hazael, and this fire will devour the palaces of
Ben-hadad"; as though he said, "I will destroy the kingdom of Syria,
I will consume it as with burning." But he first names the house of
Hazael, and then the palaces of Ben-hadad; as though he said, "No
ancientness shall preserve that kingdom from being destroyed." For,
metaphorically, under the word fire, he designates every kind of
consumption; and we know how great is the violence of fire. It is
then as though he said, that no wealth, no strength, no
fortifications, would stand in the way to prevent the kingdom of
Syria from being destroyed.
    He then adds, "I will break in pieces the bar of Damascus". The
Prophet confirms what he had already said; for Damascus, being
strongly fortified, might have seemed unassailable. By bar, the
Prophet, mentioning a part for the whole, meant strongholds and
everything which could keep out enemies. Nothing, then, shall
prevent enemies from taking possession of the city of Damascus. How
so? Because the Lord will break in pieces its bars.
    It is then added, "I will cut off, or destroy, the inhabitant
from Bikoth Aven", or from the plain of Aven. It is uncertain
whether this was the proper name of a place or not, though this is
probable; and yet it means a plain, derived from a verb, which
signifies to cut into two, or divide, because a plain or a valley
divides or separates mountains; hence a valley or plain is called in
Hebrew a division. Now, we know that there were most delightful
plains in the kingdom of Syria, and even near Damascus. Aven also
may have been the name of a place, though it means in Hebrew trouble
or laborer. But whatever it may have been, the Prophet no doubt
declares here, that all the plains nigh Damascus, and in the kingdom
of Syria, would be deprived of their inhabitants. "I will then
destroy the inhabitant from the plain of Aven, and the holder of the
sceptre from the house of Eden", or from the house of pleasure. This
also may have been the name of a place, and from its situation a
region, which, by its pleasantness greatly delighted its
inhabitants. But the Prophet, I have no doubt, alludes, in these two
words, to "trouble" and "pleasure". "Removed", he says, shall be the
people of Syria into Kir". The purport of this is, that the kingdom
of Syria would be wasted, so that the people would be taken into
Assyria; for the Prophet declares that the Assyrians would be the
conquerors, and remove the spoils into their own kingdom, and lead
away the people as captives; for the word city, as a part for the
whole, is put here for the whole land. It now follows -

Amos 1:6-8
6 Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Gaza, and for
four, I will not turn away [the punishment] thereof; because they
carried away captive the whole captivity, to deliver [them] up to
Edom:
7 But I will send a fire on the wall of Gaza, which shall devour the
palaces thereof:
8 And I will cut off the inhabitant from Ashdod, and him that
holdeth the sceptre from Ashkelon, and I will turn mine hand against
Ekron: and the remnant of the Philistines shall perish, saith the
Lord GOD.

    Amos directs here his discourse against Gaza, which the
Philistine occupied. It was situated in the tribe of Judah, towards
the sea; but as the Anakims were its inhabitants, the Philistine
kept possession of it. Then the Jews had these enemies as
"aktorekous", (guardians of the shore,), who had a greater
opportunity of doing harm from being so near: and we may learn from
the Prophet's words, that the Philistines, who dwelt at Gaza, when
they saw the Israelites oppressed by their enemies, joined their
forces to foreign allies, and that the Jews did the same. God then
now denounces punishment on them.
    As to the word, Gaza, some think that it was given to the city,
because Cambyses, when warring with the Egyptians, had deposited
there his money and valuable furniture; and because the Persian call
a treasure, gaza; but this is frivolous. We indeed know that the
Greek translators ever put "gamma" for an "ayin"; as of Omorrha they
make Gomorrha, so of Oza they make Gaza. Besides, the city had this
name before the time of Cambyses. It was then more probably thus
called from its strength: and that the Greeks rendered it Gaza was
according to their usual practice, as I have said as to other words.
But there were two Gazas; when the first was demolished, the
inhabitants built another near the sea. Hence Luke, in the 8th
chapter of the Acts says, that Gaza was a desert; and he thus makes
a difference between Gaza on the sea-side and the old one, which had
been previously demolished. But Amos speaks of the first Gaza; for
he threatens to it that destruction, through which it happened that
the city was removed to the shores of the Mediterranean.
    I come non to the Prophet's words: "God, he says, will not be
propitious to Gaza for three and four transgressions", as the
Philistine had so provoked God, that they were now wholly unworthy
of pardon and mercy. I reminded you in yesterday's Lecture, that
there is presented to us here a sad spectacles but yet useful; for
we here see so many people in such a corrupted state, that their
wickedness was become to God intolerable: but at this day the state
of things in the world is more corrupt, for iniquity overflows like
a deluge. Whatever then men may think of their evils, the Lord from
heaven sees how great and how irreclaimable is their obstinacy. It
is nothing that some throw blame on others, or look for some
alleviation, since all are ungodly and wicked: for we see that God
here declares that he would, at the same time, take vengeance on
many nations. The Idumeans might then have objected, and said, that
their neighbors were nothing better; others might have made the same
excuse; every one might have had his defense ready, if such a
pretext availed, that all were alike implicated in the same guilt
and wickedness. But we see that God appears here as a judge against
all nations. Let us not then be deceived by vain delusions, when we
see that others are like us; let every one know that he must bear
his own burden before God: "I will not then be propitious for three
and for four transgressions".
    "Because they carried away, he says, a complete captivity". The
Prophet records here a special crime, - that the Gazites took away
Jews and Israelites, and removed them as captives into Idumea, and
confined them there. I have already said that it was not the
Prophet's design to enumerate all their sins, but that he was
content to mention one crime, that the Israelites might understand
that they were involved in a heavier guilt, because they had
grievously offended both God and men. If then so severe a vengeance
was to be taken on Gaza, they ought to have known, that a heavier
vengeance awaited them, because they were guilty of more and greater
sins. But he says that they had effected a complete captivity,
inasmuch as they had spared neither women, nor children, nor old
men; for captivity is called perfect or complete, when no
distinction is made, but when all are taken away indiscriminately,
without any selection. They then carried away a complete captivity,
so that no pity either for sex or for age touched them: "that they
might shut them up, he says, in Edom".
    Now follows a denunciation of punishment, - that "God would
send a fire on the wall of Gaza, to devour its palaces". And it
hence appears that Gaza was a splendid town, and sumptuously built;
and for this reason the Prophet speaks of its palaces. He shows, at
the same time, that neither strength nor wealth would prevent God
from executing the punishment which the Gazites deserved. He names
also other cities of Palestine, even Ascalon and Azdod, or Azotus,
and Ecron. These cities the Philistine then possessed. The Prophet
then intimates, that wheresoever they might flee, there would be no
safe place for them; for the Lord would expose as a prey to enemies,
not only Gala, but also all the other cities. We may conclude that
Ascalon was the first city; for there was the royal residence,
though Gaza was the capital of the whole nation; it might yet be
that the pleasantness of its situation, and other attractions, might
have induced the king to reside there, though it was not the
metropolis; Him then "who holds the sceptre I will cut off from
Ascalon". He at last concludes, that all the remnants of Palestine
would be destroyed. Now, whenever God denounces destruction on the
Jews, he ever gives some hope, and says that the remnant would be
saved: but here the Prophet declares that whatever remained of that
nation would be destroyed; for God purposed to destroy them
altogether, and also their very name.
    He therefore adds, that "Jehovah Lord" had spoken, "saith the
Lord Jehovah". This was added for confirmation; for the Philistine
were then in possession of many and strong defenses, so that they
boldly laughed to scorn the threatening of the Prophet. He therefore
brings forward here the name of God. Now follows the prediction
respecting Tyrus: -

Amos 1:9,10
Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Tyrus, and for
four, I will not turn away [the punishment] thereof; because they
delivered up the whole captivity to Edom, and remembered not the
brotherly covenant:
But I will send a fire on the wall of Tyrus, which shall devour the
palaces thereof.

    He uses nearly the same words respecting Tyrus which he did
respecting Gaza, and charges it with the same sin, which was that of
removing the Jews from their country, as refugees and exiles, into
Idumea, and of selling them as captives to the Idumeans. As of all
the rest, he declares the same of Tyrus, that they had not lightly
sinned, and that therefore no moderate chastisement was sufficient;
for they had for a long time abused God's forbearance, and had
become stubborn in their wickedness.
    But what he says, that "they had not been mindful of the
covenant of brethren", some refer to Hiram and David; for we know
that they had a brotherly intercourse, and called each other by the
name of brothers; so great was the kindness between them. Some then
think that the Tyrians are here condemned for having forgotten this
covenant; for there ought to have remained among them some regard
for the friendship which had existed between the two kings. But I
know not whether this is too strained a view: I rather incline to
another, and that is, that the Syrians delivered up the Jews and the
Israelites to the Idumeans, when yet they knew them to be brethren:
and they who implicate themselves in a matter of this kind are by no
means excusable. When I see one conspiring for the ruin of his own
brother, I see a detestable and a monstrous thing; if I abhor not a
participation in the same crime, I am involved in the same guilt.
When therefore the Syrians saw the Idumeans raging cruelly against
their brethren, for they were descended from the same family, they
ought doubtless to have shown to the Idumeans how alienated they
were from all humanity and how perfidious they were against their
own brethren and relatives. Now the Prophet says, that they had been
unmindful of the covenant of brethren, because they made themselves
assistants in so great and execrable a crime as that of carrying
away Jews into Idumea, and of shutting them up there, when they knew
that the Idumeans sought nothing else but the entire ruin of their
own brethren. This seems to be the real meaning of the Prophet.
    But he adds, that "God would send a fire on the wall of Tyrus
to consume its palaces". When this happened, cannot with certainty
be known: for though Tyrus was demolished by Alexander, as Gaza also
was, these cities, I doubt not, suffered this calamity long before
the coming of Alexander of Macedon; and it is probable, as I have
already reminded you, that the Assyrians laid waste these countries,
and also took possession of Tyrus, though they did not demolish that
city; for in Alexander's time there was no king there, it had been
changed into a republic; the people were free, and had the chief
authority. There must then have been there no small changes, for the
state of the city and its government were wholly different from what
they had been. We may then conclude that Tyrus was laid waste by the
Assyrians, but afterwards recovered strength, and was a free city in
the time of Alexander the Great. Let us now proceed: for I dwell not
on every word, as we see that the same expressions are repeated by
the Prophet.

Amos 1:11,12
Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Edom, and for four,
I will not turn away [the punishment] thereof; because he did pursue
his brother with the sword, and did cast off all pity, and his anger
did tear perpetually, and he kept his wrath for ever:
But I will send a fire upon Teman, which shall devour the palaces of
Bozrah.

    The Prophet now passes to the Idumeans themselves. He had
denounced ruin on the uncircumcised nations who delivered up the
Jews into their hands: but they deserved a much heavier punishment,
because their crime was much more atrocious. The Idumeans derived
their origin, as it is well known, from their common father Isaac
and bore the same symbol of God's covenant, for they were
circumcised. Since nearness of blood, and that sacred union, could
not make them gentle to the Jews, we hence perceive how brutal was
their inhumanity. They were then unworthy of being forgiven by God,
when he became so severe a judge against heathen nations. But the
Prophet says now, that the Idumeans had sinned more than their
neighbors, and that their obstinacy was unhealable and that hence
they could no longer be borne, for they had too long abused God's
forbearance, who had withheld his vengeance until this time.
    He charges them with this crime, that "they pursued their
brother with the sword". There is here an anomaly of the number, for
he speaks of the whole people. Edom then pursued his brother, that
is, the Jews. But the Prophet has intentionally put the singular
number to enhance their crime: for he here placed here, as it were,
two men, Edom and Jacob, who were really brothers, and even twins.
Was it not then a most execrable ferocity in Edom to pursue his own
brother Jacob? He then sets before us here two nations as two men,
that he might more fully exhibit the barbarity of the Idumeans in
forgetting their kindred, and in venting their rage against their
own blood. "They have then pursued their brother with the sword";
that is, they have been avowed enemies, for they had joined
themselves to heathen nations. When the Assyrians came against the
Israelites, the Idumeans put on arms: and this, perhaps, happened
before that war; for when the Syrians and Israelites conspired
against the Jews, it is probable that the Idumeans joined in the
same alliance. However this may have been, the Prophet reproaches
them with cruelty for arming themselves against their own kindred,
without any regard for their own blood.
    He afterwards adds, "They have destroyed their own
compassions"; some render the words, "their own bowels;" and others
in a strained and improper manner transfer the relative to the sons
of Jacob, as though the Prophet had said, that Edom had destroyed
the compassions, which were due, on account of their near
relationship, from the posterity of Jacob. But the sense of the
Prophet is clearly this, - that they destroyed their own
compassions, which means, that they put off all sense of religion,
and cast aside the first affections of nature. He then calls those
the compassions of Edom, even such as he ought to have been
influenced by: but as he had thrown aside all regard for humanity,
there was not in him that compassion which he ought to have had.
    He then adds, "His anger has perpetually raged". He now
compares the cruelty of the Idumeans to that of wild beasts; for
they raged like fierce wild animals, and spared not their own blood.
They then raged perpetually, even endlessly, and "retained their
indignation perpetually". The Prophet seems here to allude to Edom
or Esau, the father of the nation; for he cherished long, we know,
his wrath against his brother; as he dared not to kill his brother
during his father's life. Hence he said, I will wait till my
father's death, then I will avenge myself, (Gen. 27: 41.) Since Esau
then nourished this cruel hatred against his brother Jacob, the
prophet here charges his posterity with the same crime; as though he
had said, that they were too much like their father, or too much
retained his perverse disposition, as they cherished and ever
retained revenge in their hearts, and were wholly implacable. There
may have been other causes of hatred between the Idumeans and the
posterity of Jacob: but they ought, notwithstanding, whatever
displeasure there may have been, to have forgiven their brethren. It
was a monstrous thing past endurance, when a regard for their own
blood did not reconcile those who were, by sacred bonds, connected
together. We now perceive the object of the Prophet: and we here
learn, that the Idumeans were more severely condemned than those
mentioned before, and for this reason, - because they raged so
cruelly against their own kindred.
    He says in the last place, "I will send fire on Teman, to
consume the palaces of Bozrah". By fire he ever means any kind of
destruction. But he compares God's vengeance to a burning fire. We
know that when fire has once taken hold, not only on a house, but on
a whole city, there is no remedy. So now the Prophet says, that
God's vengeance would be dreadful, that it would consume whatever
hatred there was among them: I will then send fire on Teman; which,
as it is well known, was the first city of Idumea. Let us now
proceed -

Amos 1:13-15
13 Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of the children of
Ammon, and for four, I will not turn away [the punishment] thereof;
because they have ripped up the women with child of Gilead, that
they might enlarge their border:
14 But I will kindle a fire in the wall of Rabbah, and it shall
devour the palaces thereof, with shouting in the day of battle, with
a tempest in the day of the whirlwind:
15 And their king shall go into captivity, he and his princes
together, saith the LORD.
    
    He now prophesies against the Ammonites, who also derived their
origin from the same common stock; for they were the posterity of
Lot, as it is well known; and Lot was counted as the son of Abraham,
as Abraham, having taken him with him from his country brought him
up, no doubt, as his own son. Then Abraham was the common father of
the Jews and of the Ammonites. Now, when the children of Ammon,
without any regard to relationship, joined their forces to those of
enemies, and conspired together, their cruelty admitted of no
excuse. And there is no doubt but that they were guilty of many
other crimes; but God, by his Prophet, enumerates not all the sins
for which he had purposed to punish them, and only points out
distinctly, as in passing, but one sin, and generally declares, that
such people were utterly past hope, for they had hardened themselves
in their wickedness.
    He therefore says of the children of Ammon, that they "rent the
pregnant women". Some take "harot" for "harim", mountains; but I see
not what can induce them, unless they think it strange that pregnant
women were rent, that the Ammonites might extend further their
borders; and for this ends it would be more suitable to regard the
word as meaning mountains; as though he said, "They have cut through
mountains, even the earth itself; there has been no obstacle through
which the Ammonites have not made their way: an insatiable cupidity
has so inflamed them, that they have rent the very mountains, and
destroyed the whole order of nature." Others take mountains
metaphorically for fortified cities; for when one seeks to take
possession of a kingdoms cities stand in his way like mountains. But
this exposition is too strained.
    Now, since "harot" mean women with child, the word, I doubt
not, is to be taken in its genuine and usual sense, as we see it to
be done in Hosea. But why does the Prophet say, that the Ammonites
had rent pregnant women? It is to show, that their cupidity was so
frantic, that they abstained not from any kind of cruelty. It is
possible that one be so avaricious as to seek to devour up the whole
earth, and yet be inclined to clemency. Alexander, the Macedonian,
though a bloody man, did yet show some measure of kindness: but
there have been others much more cruel; as the Persian, of whom
Isaiah speaks, who desired not money, but shed blood, (Isa. 13: 17,
&c.) So the Prophet says here of the Ammonites, that they not only,
by unlawful means, extended their borders, used violence and became
robbers who spoiled others of their property, but also that they did
not spare even women with child. Now this is the worst thing in the
storming of towns. When a town has wearied out an enemy, both
pregnant women, and children, and infants may, through fury, be
destroyed: but this is a rare thing, and never allowed, except under
peculiar circumstances. He then reproaches the Ammonites, not only
for their cupidity, but also for having committed every kind of
cruelty to satisfy their greediness: "they have then torn asunder
women with child, that they might extend their borders".
    "I will therefore kindle a fire in the wall of Rabbah, which
shall devour its palaces", (the Prophet adds nothing new, I shall
therefore go on,) "and this by tumult", or by glamour, "in the day
of war". The Prophet means that enemies would come and suddenly lay
waste the kingdom of Ammon; and that this would be the case, as a
sudden fire lays hold on wood, in the day of war; that is as soon as
the enemy attacked them, it would immediately put them to fight, and
execute the vengeance they deserved, "by a whirlwind in the day of
tempest". By these figurative terms the Prophet intimates that the
calamity destructive to the Ammonites, would be sudden.
    He finally adds, "And their king shall go into captivity, he
and his princes together". As "malkam" was an idol of the people,
some regard it here as a proper name; but he says, "malkam hu
wesaraw", 'their king, he and his princes;' hence the Prophet, no
doubt, names the king of Ammon, for he joins with him his princes.
He says then that the ruin of the kingdom would be such, that the
king himself would be led captive by the Assyrians. This prediction
was no doubt fulfilled, though there is no history of it extant.
    
Prayer.
    
Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast designed, by so many
examples, to teach the world the fear of thy name, we may improve
under thy mighty hand, and not abuse thy forbearance, nor gather for
ourselves a treasure of dreadful vengeance by our obstinacy and
irreclaimable wickedness, but seasonably repent while thou invites
us, and while it is the accepted time, and while thou offerest to us
reconciliation, that being brought to nothing in ourselves, we may
gather courage through grace, which is offered to us through Christ
our Lord. Amen.


Chapter 2.

Lecture Fifty-first.

Amos 2:1-3
1 Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Moab, and for
four, I will not turn away [the punishment] thereof; because he
burned the bones of the king of Edom into lime:
2 But I will send a fire upon Moab, and it shall devour the palaces
of Kerioth: and Moab shall die with tumult, with shouting, [and]
with the sound of the trumpet:
3 And I will cut off the judge from the midst thereof, and will slay
all the princes thereof with him, saith the LORD.
    
    Now Amos prophesies here against the Moabites, and proclaims
respecting them what we have noticed respecting the other nations, -
that the Moabites were wholly perverse, that no repentance would be
hoped for, as they had added crimes to crimes, and reached the
highest pitch of wickedness; for, as we have said, the number,
seven, imports this. The Prophet then charges the Moabites here with
perverseness: and hence we learn that God's vengeance did not come
hastily upon them, for their wickedness was intolerable since they
thus followed their crimes. But he mentions one thing in particular,
- that "they had burnt the bones of the king of Edom".
    Some take bones here for courage, as though the Prophet had
said, that the whole strength of Edom had been reduced into ashes:
but this is a strained exposition; and its authors themselves
confess that they are forced to it by necessity, when yet there is
none. The comment given by the Rabbis does not please them, - that
the body of a certain king had been burnt, and then that the
Moabites had strangely applied the ashes for making a cement instead
of lime. Thus the Rabbis trifle in their usual way; for when an
obscure place occurs, they immediately invent some fable; though
there be no history, yet they exercise their wit in fabulous
glosses; and this I wholly dislike: but what need there is of
running to allegory, when we may simply take what the Prophet says,
that the body of the king of Edom had been burnt: for the Prophet, I
doubt not, charges the Moabites with barbarous cruelty. To dig up
the bodies of enemies, and to burn their bones, - this is an inhuman
deed, and wholly barbarous. But it was more detestable in the
Moabites, who had some connection with the people of Edom; for they
descended from the same family; and the memory of that relationship
ought to have continued, since Abraham brought up Lot, the father of
the Moabites; and thus the Moabites were under an obligation to the
Idumeans. If then any humanity existed in them, they ought to have
restrained their passions, so as not to treat so cruelly their
brethren. Now, when they exceeded all moderation in war, and raged
against dead bodies, and burnt the bones of the dead, it was, as I
have said, an extremely barbarous conduct. The meaning then is, that
the Moabites could no longer be borne with; for in this one
instance, they gave an example of savage cruelty. Had there been a
drop of humanity in them, they would have treated more kindly their
brethren, the Idumeans; but they burnt into lime, that is, into
ashes, the bones of the king of Edom, and thereby proved that they
had forgotten all humanity and justice. We now understand the
Prophet's meaning.
    He therefore adds a threatening, "I will send a fire on Moab,
which shall devour the palaces of Keriot". We have stated that what
the Prophet means by these modes of speaking is that God would
consume the Moabites by a violent punishment as by a burning fire,
that fortified places could not hinder him from executing his
vengeance, and that though they were proud of their palaces, yet
these would avail them nothing.
    And he subjoins, "Moab shall die with tumult, with noise, with
the sound of the trumpet"; that is, I will send strong enemies, who
will come and make no peace with the Moabites, but will take
possession of every place, and of fortified cities, by force and by
the sword. For what the Prophet means by tumult, by shouting, by the
sound of the trumpet, is, that the Moabites would not come under the
power of their enemies by certain agreements and compacts, as when a
voluntary surrender is made, which usually mitigates the hostile
rage of enemies; no, he says, it shall not be so; for their enemies
shall have not only their wealth but their lives also.
    He finally adds, "And I will cut off the judge from the midst
of her, and will slay her princes, saith Jehovah". God here
declares, that the kingdom of the Moabites and the people shall be
no more; for we know that men cannot exist as a body without some
civil government. Wherever then there is an assemblage of men, there
must be princes to rule and govern them. Hence, when God declares
that there would be no more a judge among the Moabites, it is the
same thing as if he had said, that their name would be blotted out;
for had the people of Moab continued, some princes must have
necessarily, as we have said, remained among them. When princes then
are destroyed, the people must also perish, for there is no security
for them. The Prophet then denounces not here a temporary punishment
on the Moabites, but utter ruin, from which they were never to rise.
This is the meaning. Let us now proceed -

Amos 2:4,5
Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Judah, and for
four, I will not turn away [the punishment] thereof; because they
have despised the law of the LORD, and have not kept his
commandments, and their lies caused them to err, after the which
their fathers have walked:
But I will send a fire upon Judah, and it shall devour the palaces
of Jerusalem.

    Amos turns now his discourse to the tribe of Judah, and to that
kingdom, which still continued in the family of David. He has
hitherto spoken of heathen and uncircumcised nations: what he said
of them was a prelude of the destruction which was nigh the chosen
people; for when God spared not others who had through ignorance
sinned, what was to become of the people of Israel, who had been
taught in the law? For a servant, knowing his master's will, and
doing it not, is worthy of many stripes, (Luke 12: 47.) God could
not, then, forgive the children of Abraham, whom he had adopted as
his peculiar people, when he inflicted each grievous punishments on
heathen nations, whose ignorance, as it is commonly thought by men,
was excusable. It is indeed true, that all who sin without law will
justly perish, as Paul says in Rom. 2, but when a comparison is made
between the children of Israel and the wretched heathens, who were
immersed in errors, the latter were doubtless worthy of being
pardoned, when compared with that people who had betrayed their
perverseness, and, as it were, designedly resolved to bring on
themselves the vengeance of God.
    The Prophet then having hitherto spoken of the Gentiles, turns
his discourse now to the chosen people, the children of Abraham. But
he speaks of the tribe of Judah, from which he sprang, as I said at
the beginning; and he did this, lest any one should charge him with
favoring his own countrymen: he had, indeed, migrated into the
kingdom of Israel; but he was there a stranger. We shall now see how
severely he reproved them. Had he, then, been silent as to the tribe
of Judah, he might have been subject to calumny; for many might have
said, that there was a collusion between him and his own countrymen
and that he concealed their vices, and that he fiercely inveighed
against their neighbors, through a wicked emulation, in order to
transfer the kingdom again into the family of David. Hence, that no
such suspicion might tarnish his doctrine, the Prophet here summons
to judgment the tribe of Judah, and speaks in no milder language of
the Jews than of other nations: for he says, that they, through
their stubbornness, had so provoked God's wrath, that there was no
hope of pardon; for such was the mass of their vices, that God would
now justly execute extreme vengeance, as a moderate chastisement
would not be sufficient. We now then understand the Prophet's
design.
    I come now to the words: "For they have despised, he says, the
law of Jehovah". Here he charges the Jews with apostasy; for they
had cast aside the worship of God, and the pure doctrine of
religion. This was a crime the most grievous. We hence see, that the
Prophet condemns here freely and honestly as it became him, the
vices of his own people, so that there was no room for calumny, when
he afterwards became a severe censor and reprover of the Israelites;
for he does not lightly touch on something wrong in the tribe of
Judah, but says that they were apostates and perfidious, having cast
aside the law of God. But it may be asked, why the Prophet charges
the Jews with a crime so atrocious, since religions as we have seen
in the Prophecies of Hosea, still existed among them? But to this
there is a ready answer: the worship of God was become corrupt among
them, though they had not so openly departed from it as the
Israelites. There remained, indeed, circumcision among the
Israelites; but their sacrifices were pollutions, their temples were
brothels: they thought that they worshipped God; but as a temple had
been built at Bethel contrary to God's command, the whole worship
was a profanation. The Jews were somewhat purer; but they, we know,
had also degenerated from the genuine worship of God. Hence the
Prophet does not unjustly say here, that they had despised the law
of God.
    But we must notice the explanation which immediately follows, -
that "they kept not his statutes". The way then by which Amos proves
that the Jews were covenant-breakers, and that having repudiated
God's law, they had fallen into wicked superstitions, is by saying,
that they kept not the precepts of God. It may, however, appear that
he treats them here with too much severity; for one might not
altogether keep God's commands either through ignorance or
carelessness, or some other fault, and yet be not a covenant-breaker
or an apostate. I answer, - That in these words of the Prophet, not
mere negligence is blamed in the Jews; but they are condemned for
designedly, that is, knowingly and willfully departing from the
commandments of God, and devising for themselves various modes of
worship. It is not then to keep the precepts of God, when men
continue not under his law, but audaciously contrive for themselves
new forms of worship; they regard not what God commands, but lay
hold on anything pleasing that comes to their minds. This crime the
Prophet now condemns in the Jews: and hence it was that they had
despised the law of God. For men should never assume so much as to
change any thing in the worship of God; but due reverence for God
ought to influence them: were they persuaded of this - that there is
no wisdom but what comes from God - they would surely confine
themselves within his commands. Whenever then they invent new and
fictitious forms of worship, they sufficiently show that they regard
not what the Lord wills, what he enjoins, what he forbids. Thus,
then, they despise his law, and even cast it away.
    This is a remarkable passage; for we see, first, that a most
grievous sin is condemned by the Prophet, and that sin is, that the
Jews confined not themselves to God's law, but took the liberty of
innovating; this is one thing: and we also learn how much God values
obedience, which is better, as it is said in another place, than all
sacrifices, (1 Sam. 15: 22.) And that we may not think this a light
or a trifling sin, let us notice the expression - that they despised
the law of God. Every one ought to dread this as the most monstrous
thing; for we cannot despise the law of God without insulting his
majesty. And yet the Holy Spirit declares here, that we repudiate
and reject the law of God, except we wholly follow what it commands,
and continue within the limits prescribed by it. We now perceive
what the Prophet means.
    But he also adds, that "their own lies deceived or caused them
to go astray". He here confirms his preceding doctrine; for the Jews
had ever a defense ready at hand, that they did with good intent
what the Prophet condemned in them. They, forsooth! sedulously
worshipped God, though they mixed their own leaven, by which their
sacrifices were corrupted: it was not their purpose to spend their
substance in vain, to undergo great expenses in sacrifices, and to
undertake much labour, had they not thought that it was service
acceptable to God! As then the pretence of good intention, (as they
say,) ever deceives the unbelieving, the Prophet condemns this
pretence, and shows it to be wholly fallacious, and of no avail. "It
is nothing," he says, "that they pretend before God some good
intention; their own lies deceive them." And Amos, no doubt,
mentions here these lies, in opposition to the commands of God. As
soon then as men swerve from God's word, they involve themselves in
many delusions, and cannot but go astray; and this is deserving of
special notice. We indeed see how much wisdom the world claims for
itself: for as soon as we invent anything we are greatly delighted
with it; and the ape, according to the old proverb, is ever pleased
with its own offspring. But this vice especially prevails, when by
our devices we corrupt and adulterate the worship of God. Hence the
Prophet here declares, that whatever is added to God's word, and
whatever men invent in their own brains is a lie: "All this," he
says, "is nothing but imposture." We now see of what avail is good
intention: by this indeed men harden themselves; but they cannot
make the Lord to retract what he has once declared by the mouth of
his Prophet. Let us then take heed to continue within the boundaries
of God's word, and never to leap over either on this or on that
side; for when we turn aside ever so little from the pure word of
God, we become immediately involved in many deceptions.
    It then follows, "After which have walked their fathers";
literally it is, "Which their fathers have walked after them": but
we have given the sense. The Prophet here exaggerates their sin, the
insatiable rage of the people; for the children now followed their
fathers. This vice, we know, prevailed in all ages among the Jews;
leaving the word of God, they ever followed their own dreams, and
the delusions of Satan. Since God had now often tried to correct
this vice by his Prophets, and no fruit followed, the Prophet
charges them here with hardness, and by this circumstance enhances
the sin of the Jews: "It is nothing new," he says, "for children to
imitate their fathers, and to be wholly like them: they are then the
bad eggs of bad ravens." So also said Stephen, 'Ye are hard and
uncircumcised in heart, and resist the Holy Spirit, as your fathers
also did formerly,' (Acts 7.) We now understand the intention of the
Prophet.
    But we hence learn of what avail is the subterfuge resorted to
by the Papists, when they boast of antiquity. For they set up
against the Law, the Prophets, and the Gospel, this shield, - that
theirs is the old religion, that they have not been the first
founders, but that they follow what has been handed down to them
from early times, and observed for many ages. When the Papists
boastingly declare all this, they think that they say enough to put
God to silence, and wholly to reject his Word. But we see how
frivolous is this sort of caviling, and how worthless before God:
for the Prophet does not concede to the Jews the example of the
fathers as an excuse, but sets forth their sin as being greater
because they followed their perfidious fathers, who had forsaken the
Law of the Lord. The same thing is also said by Ezekiel, 'After the
precepts of your fathers walk not,' (chap. 20.) We now see what sort
of crime is that of which the Prophet speaks. At last a threatening
follows, "The Lord saith, Fire will I send on Judah, which shall
devour the palaces of Jerusalem.' But all this we have already
explained. Let us now proceed -

Amos 2:6
Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Israel, and for
four, I will not turn away [the punishment] thereof; because they
sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes;

    The Prophet here assails the Israelites, to whom he had been
sent, as we have said at the beginning. He now omits every reference
to other nations; for his business was with the Israelites to whom
he was especially appointed a teacher. But he wished to set before
them, as in various mirrors, the judgment of God, which awaited
them, that he might the more effectually awaken them: and he wished
also to exhibit in the Jews themselves an example of the extreme
vengeance of God, though there was greater purity among them, at
least a purer religion, and more reverence for God prevailed as yet
among them. He in this way prepared the Israelites, that they might
not obstinately and proudly reject his doctrine. He now then
addresses them, and says that they continued unmoved in their many
sins. The import of the whole is, that if the Moabites, the
Idumeans, the Tyrians, the Sidonians, and other nations, and that if
the Jews as well as these were irreclaimable in their obstinacy, so
that their diseases were incurable, and their wickedness such as God
could no longer endure, the Israelites were also in the same
condition; for they also continued perverse in their wickedness, and
provoked God, and repented not, though God had waited long, and
exhorted them to repent.
    It is now meet for us to bear in mind what we have before said,
- that if impiety was so rampant in that age, and the contempt of
God so prevailed, that men could not be restored to a sane mind, and
if iniquity everywhere overflowed, (for Amos accuses not a few
people, but many nations,) let us at this day beware, lest such
corruptions prevail among us; for, certainly, the world is now much
worse than it was then: nay, since the Prophet says here, that both
the Israelites and the Jews were wholly irreclaimable in their
obstinacy, there is no excuse for us at this day for deceiving
ourselves with an empty name, because we have the symbol of faith,
having been baptized; and in case we have other marks, which seem to
belong to the Church of God, let us not think that we are therefore
free from guilt, if we allow ourselves that unruliness condemned
here by the Prophet both in the Israelites and in the Jews; for they
had become hardened against all instructions, against all warnings.
Let, then, these examples rouse our attention, lest we, like them,
harden ourselves so much as to constrain the Lord to execute on us
extreme vengeance.
    Let us now especially observe what the Prophet lays to the
charge of Israel. He begins with their cruel deeds; but the whole
book is taken up with reproofs; there is to the very end a continued
accusation as to those crimes which then prevailed among the people
of Israel. He does not then point out only one particular crime, as
with respect to the other nations; but he scrutinizes all the vices
of which the people were guilty, as though he would thoroughly
anatomize them. But these we shall notice in their proper order.
    Now as to the first thing, the Prophet says, that "the just"
among the Israelites "was sold for silver, yea, for shoes". It may
be asked, Why is it that he does not begin with those superstitions,
in which they surpassed the Jews? for if God had resolved to destroy
Jerusalem and his own temple, because they had fallen away into
superstitious and spurious modes of worship, how much more ought
such a judgment to have been executed on the Israelites, as they had
perverted the whole law, and had become wholly degenerate; and even
circumcision was nothing but a profanation of God's covenant? Why,
then, does not the Prophet touch on this point? To this I answer, -
That as superstition had now for many years prevailed among them,
the Prophet does not make this now his subject; but we shall
hereafter see, that he has not spared these ungodly deprivations
which had grown rampant among the Israelites. He indeed sharply
arraigns all their superstitions; but he does this in its suitable
place. It was now necessary to begin with common evils; and this was
far more opportune than if he had at first spoken of superstitions;
for they might have said, that they did indeed worship God. He
therefore preferred condemning the Jews for alienating themselves
from the pure commandments of God; and as to the Israelites, he
reproves here their gross vices. But after having charged them with
cruelty, shameless rapacity, and many lusts, after having exposed
their filthy abominations, he then takes the occasion, as being then
more suitable of exclaiming against superstitions. This order our
Prophet designedly observed, as we shall see more fully from the
connection of his discourse.
    I now return to the words, that they "sold the just for silver,
and the poor for shoes". He means that there was no justice nor
equity among the Israelites, for they made a sale of the children of
God: and it was a most shameful thing, that there was no remedy for
injuries. For we hence, no doubt, learn, that the Prophet levels his
reproof against the judges who then exercised authority. The just,
he says, is sold for silver: this could not apply to private
individuals, but to judges, to whom it belonged to extend a helping
hand to the miserable and the poor, to avenge wrongs, and to give to
every one his right. It is then the same as though the Prophet had
said, that unbridled licentiousness reigned triumphant among the
Israelites, so that just men were exposed as a prey, and were set,
as it were, on sale. He says, first, that they were sold for
"silver", and then he adds for "shoes": and this ought to be
carefully observed; for when once men begin to turn aside from the
right course, they abandon themselves to evil without any shame.
When an attempt is first made to draw aside a man that is just and
upright and free from what is corrupt, he is not immediately
overcome; though a great price may be offered to him, he will yet
stand firm: but when he has sold his integrity for ten pieces of
gold, he may afterwards be easily bought, as the case is usually
will women. A woman, while she is pure, cannot be easily drawn away
from her conjugal fidelity: she may yet be corrupted by a great
price; and when once corrupted, she will afterwards prostitute
herself, so that she may be bought for a crust of bread. The same is
the case with judges. They, then, who at first covet silver, that
is, who cannot be corrupted except by a rich and fat bribe, will
afterwards barter their integrity for the meanest reward; for there
is no shame any more remaining in them. This is what the Prophet
points out in these words, - That they sold the just for silver;
that is, that they sold him for a high price, and then that they
were corrupted by the meanest gift, that if one offered them a pair
of shoes, they would be ready without any blush of shame to receive
such a bribe.
    We now then see the crime of which Amos accused the Israelites.
They could not raise an objection here, which they might have done,
if he touched their superstitions. He wished therefore to acquire
authority by reprobating first their manifest and obvious crimes. He
afterwards, as it has been stated, speaks in its proper place, of
that fictitious worship, which they, after having rejected the Law
of God, embraced. It follows -

Amos 2:7
That pant after the dust of the earth on the head of the poor, and
turn aside the way of the meek: and a man and his father will go in
unto the [same] maid, to profane my holy name:

    Here Amos charges them first with insatiable avarice; they
panted for the heads of the poor on the dust of the earth. This
place is in my judgment not well understood. "Sha'af" means to pant
and to breathe, and is taken often metaphorically as signifying to
desire: hence some render the words, "They desire the heads of the
poor to be in the dust of the earth;" that is, they are anxious to
see the innocent cast down and prostrate on the ground. But there is
no need of many words to refute this comment; for ye see that it is
strained. Others say, that in their cupidity they cast down the
miserable into the dust; they therefore think that a depraved
cupidity is connected with violence, and they put the lust for the
deed itself.
    But what need there is of having recourse to these extraneous
meanings, when the words of the Prophet are in themselves plain and
clear enough? He says that they "panted for the heads of the poor on
the ground"; as though he had said, that they were not content with
casting down the miserable, but that they gaped anxiously, until
they wholly destroyed them. There is then nothing to be changed or
added in the Prophet's words, which harmonize well together, and
mean, that through cupidity they panted for the heads of the poor,
after the poor had been cast down, and were laid prostrate in the
dust. The very misery of the poor, whom they saw to be in their
power, and lying at their feet, ought to have satisfied them: but
when such an insatiable cupidity still inflamed them, that they
panted for more punishment on the poor and the miserable, was it not
a fury wholly outrageous? We now perceive the Prophet's meaning: He
points out again what he has said in the former verse, - that the
Israelites were given to rapacity, avarice, and cruelty of every
kind.
    He adds at last, "and the way of the miserable they pervert".
He still inveighs against the judges; for it can hardly comport with
what belongs to private individuals, but it properly appertains to
judges to pervert justice, and to violate equity for bribery; so
that he who had the best cause became the loser, because he brought
no bribe sufficiently ample. We now see what was the accusation he
alleged against the Israelites. But there follows another charge,
that of indulge in lusts.
    
Prayer.
    
Grant, almighty God, that since we see so grievous punishments
formerly executed on unbelievers who had never tasted of the pure
knowledge of thy word, we may be warned by their example, so as to
abstain from all wickedness, and to continue in pure obedience to
thy word; and that, as thou hast made known to us that thou hatest
all those superstitions and depravations by which we turn aside from
thy word, - O grant, that we may ever be attentive to that role
which has been prescribed to us by thee in the Law, as well as in
the Prophets and in the Gospel, so that we may constantly abide in
thy precepts, and be wholly dependent on the words of thy month, and
never turn aside either to the right hand or to the left, but
glorify thy name, as thou has commanded us, by offering to thee a
true, sincere, and spiritual worship, through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Lecture Fifty-second.

    It follows, in the seventh verse, that "the son and the father
entered in into the same maid". The Prophet here charges the people
of Israel with the unbridled lusts which prevailed then among them;
which were promiscuous and even incestuous. It is, we know, a
detestable monstrosity when a father and a son have connection with
the same woman; for the common feeling of mankind abhors such
flagitousness. But the Israelites were so much addicted to their own
lusts, that the father and the son had the same woman in common; as
indeed it must happen when men allow themselves excessive
indulgences. A strumpet will, indeed, readily admit a son and a
father without any difference, for she has no shame; and no fear of
God restrains abandoned women given up to filthiness. It hence
becomes a common thing for a father and a son to pollute themselves
by an incestuous concubinage. But it is no diminution of guilt
before God, when men, blinded by their lusts, make no difference,
and without any discrimination, and without any shame, follow their
own sinful propensities. Whenever this happens, it certainly proves
that there is no fear of God, and that even the common feeling of
nature is extinct. Hence the Prophet now justly condemns in the
Israelites this crime, that the father and the son entered in into
the same woman.
    An amplification of this crime is also added, - that they thus
polluted "the holy name of God". We indeed know that the people of
Israel were chosen for this end - that the name of God might be
supplicated by them; and well known is that declaration, often
repeated by Moses, 'Be ye holy, for I am holy' (Lev. 11: 44.) Hence
the children of Israel could not defile themselves without polluting
at the same time the name of God, which was engraven on them. God
then complains here of this profanation; for the children of Israel
not only contaminated themselves, but also profaned whatever was
sacred among them, inasmuch as the name of God was exposed to
reproach, when the people thus gave way to their filthy lusts. We
now understand what the Prophet means. It follows -

Amos 2:8
And they lay [themselves] down upon clothes laid to pledge by every
altar, and they drink the wine of the condemned [in] the house of
their god.
    
    Here the Prophet again inveighs against the people's
avariciousness, and addresses his discourse especially to the chief
men; for what he mentions could not have been done by the common
people, as the lower and humbler classes could not make feasts by
means of spoils gained by judicial proceedings. The Prophet then
condemns here, no doubt, the luxury and rapacity of men in high
stations. "They lie down, he says, on pledged clothes nigh every
altar". God had forbidden, in his law, to take from a poor man a
pledge, the need of which he had for the support of life and daily
use, (Exod. 22: 26.) For instance, it was prohibited by the law to
take from a poor man his cloak or his coat, or to take the covering
of his bed, or any thing else of which he had need. But the Prophet
now accuses the Israelites, that they took away pledges and clothes
without any distinction, and lay down on them nigh their altars.
This belonged to the rich.
    Then follows another clause, which, strictly speaking, must be
restricted to the judges and governors, "They have drunk the wine of
the condemned in the house, or in the temple, of their God". This
may also be understood of the rich, who were wont to indulge in
luxury by means of ill-gotten spoils: for they litigated without
cause; and when they gained judgment in their favor, they thought it
lawful to fare more sumptuously. This expression of the Prophet may
therefore be extended to any of the rich. But he seems here to
condemn more specifically the cruelty and rapaciousness of the
judges. We now then perceive what the Prophet had in view by saying,
that they lay down on pledged garments.
    He then says that "they drank wine derived from fines", which
had been laid on the condemned. But this circumstance, that is
added, ought to be observed, - that they "lay down near altars and
drank" in the very temple: for the Prophet here laughs to scorn the
gross superstition of the Israelites, that they thought that they
were discharging their duty towards God, provided they came to the
temple and offered sacrifices at the altar. Thus, indeed, are
hypocrites wont to appease God, as if one by puppets played with a
child. This has been a wickedness very common in all ages, and is
here laid to the charge of the Israelites by the Prophet: they dared
with an open front to enter the temple, and there to bring the
pledged garments, and to feast on their spoils. Hypocrites do ever
make a den of thieves of God's temple, (Matth. 21: 13;) for they
think that all things are lawful for them, provided they put on the
appearance, by external worship, of being devoted to God. Since,
then, the Israelites promised themselves impunity and took liberty
to sin, because they performed religious ceremonies, the Prophet
here sharply reproves them: they even dared to make God a witness of
their cruelty by bringing pledged garments and by blending their
spoils with their sacrifices, as though God had a participation with
robbers.
    We hence see that rapaciousness and avarice are not alone
condemned here by the Prophet, but that the gross superstition of
the Israelites is also reprobated, because they thought that there
would be no punishment for them, though they plundered and robbed
the poor, provided they reserved a part of the spoil for God, as
though a sacrifice from what had been unjustly got were not an
abomination to him.
    But it may be asked, Why does the Prophet thus condemn the
Israelites for they had no sacred temple; and we also know (as it
has been elsewhere stated) that the temples, in which they thought
that they worshipped God, were filthy brothels, and full of all
obscenity. How is it, then, that the Prophet now so sharply inveighs
against them, because they mingled their spoils with their impure
sacrifices? To this the answer is, That he had regard to their
views, and derided the grossness of their minds, that they thus
childishly trifled with the God whom they imagined for themselves.
We say the same at this day to the Papists, - that they blend
profane with sacred things, when they prostitute their masses, and
also when they trifle with God in their ceremonies. It is certain.
that whatever the Papists do is an abomination; for the whole of
religion is with them adulterated: but they yet cease not to wrong
God, whose name they pretend to profess. Such also were then the
Israelites: though they professed still to worship God, they were
yet sacrilegious; though they offered sacrifices to the calves in
Dan and in Bethel, they yet reproached God, for they ever abused his
name. This, then, is the crime the Prophet now condemns in them. But
what I have said must be remembered, - that this blind assurance is
reprehended in the Israelites, that they thought spoils to be lawful
provided they professed to worship God: but they thus rendered
double their crime, as we have said; for they tried to make God the
associate of robbers, mingling as they did their pollutions with
their sacrifices. Let us proceed -

Amos 2:9-12
9 Yet destroyed I the Amorite before them, whose height [was] like
the height of the cedars, and he [was] strong as the oaks; yet I
destroyed his fruit from above, and his roots from beneath.
10 Also I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and led you forty
years through the wilderness, to possess the land of the Amorite.
11 And I raised up of your sons for prophets, and of your young men
for Nazarites. [Is it] not even thus, O ye children of Israel? saith
the LORD.
12 But ye gave the Nazarites wine to drink; and commanded the
prophets, saying, Prophesy not.
    
    God expostulates here with the Israelites for their
ingratitude. He records the benefits he had before conferred on that
people; and then shows how unworthily and disgracefully they had
conducted themselves; for they forgot their many blessings and
proudly despised God, and acted as if they were like other nations,
and not bound to God for the singular benefit of adoption. The sum
then is that God here complains that he had ill bestowed his
blessings; and he reproves the people for their impiety, inasmuch as
they did not lead a holier life after having been freely redeemed.
    He says first, "I have exterminated the Amorite before their
face". God shows here that he was disgracefully defrauded by the
Israelites, for whose sake he had previously destroyed the Amorites.
For why were the Amorites exterminated, but that God would cleanse
the land, and also, that he might give there a dwelling to his own
people, that he might be purely worshipped? Then the people of
Israel ought to have given up themselves wholly to the service of
God; but as they neglected to do this, they frustrated the purpose
of God, who had expelled the Amorites from that land, yea, and
entirely destroyed them. The first complaint then is, that the
children of Israel were nothing better than the Amorites, though God
had given them the land, which was taken from its natives, that they
might dwell in it, and on the condition, that his name should be
there worshipped. Hence the Prophets say elsewhere, that they were
Amorites. They ought to have been a new people; but as they followed
the examples of others, in what did they differ from them? They are
therefore called their posterity. But the Prophet speaks not here so
severely; he only reproves the Israelites, because they differed in
nothing from the Amorites, whom they knew to have been destroyed
that they might be introduced into their place, and succeed to their
inheritance.
    It is then added, that the "Amorites were tall" in stature, and
also that they were "strong" men. By these words the Prophet
intimates that the Amorites were not conquered by the people's
valour, but by the wonderful power of God. We indeed know that they
were dreaded by the people of Israel, for they were like giants.
Then the Prophet speaks here of their height and strength, that the
Israelites might consider that they overcame them not by their own
valour, but that the land was given them by a miracle, for they had
to do with giants, on whom they could hardly dare to look. It was
then God who prostrated the cedars and the oaks before his people.
We hence learn, that the Israelites could not boast of their own
strengths as though they took possession of the land, because by
means of war they ejected their enemies; for this was done by the
singular kindness of God. They could not indeed have contended with
their enemies, had not that been fulfilled which the Lord had so
often foretold, 'For you, while still, I will fight, (Exod. 14: 14.)
We now perceive the Prophet's intention. But we may hence farther
learn, that the Israelites had not possessed the land, because they
were more excellent than the Amorites, its ancient inhabitants; but
because it so pleased God. There was therefore no reason for the
people of Israel to be proud on account of any excellency. It hence
appears that they, who did not consider this remarkable kindness
done to them, were more than doubly ungrateful to God.
    He says that their "fruit above and root below were destroyed".
By this metaphor God enlarges on what he said before, that the
Amorites had been exterminated, so that none of them remained. "I
have demolished," he says, or, "I have entirely destroyed the root
beneath and the fruit above; I have extinguished the very name of
the nation." And yet the Israelites were not better, though the
Amorites were thus destroyed; but having succeeded in their place,
they became like them: this was utterly inexcusable. The more severe
God's vengeance had been towards the Amorites, the more ought the
Israelites to have extolled his favor: but when with closed eyes
they passed by so remarkable a testimony of God's paternal love, it
appears that they were extremely wicked and ungrateful.
    He afterwards subjoins, "I have made you to ascend from the
land of Egypt; I have made you to walk in the desert for forty
years, in order to possess the land of the Amorite". The
circumstances here specified are intended to confirm the same thing,
that God had miraculously redeemed his people. Men, we know, for the
most part extenuate the favors of God; nay, this evil is innate in
us. This is the reason why the Prophet so largely describes and
extols the redemption of the people. Hence he says now that they had
been led out of the land of Egypt. And they ought to have remembered
what had been their condition in Egypt; for there they were most
miserably oppressed. When therefore that coming out was set before
them, it was the same as if God had reminded them how shamefully
they had been treated, and how hard had been their bondage in Egypt.
That beginning ought to have humbled them, and also to have
stimulated them to the cultivation of piety. When now they proudly
exulted against God, when no recollection of their deliverance laid
hold on them, this vice is justly laid to their charge by the
Prophet: "See," he says, "I have brought you forth from the land of
Egypt; what were ye then? what was your nobility? what was your
wealth or riches? what was your power? For the Egyptians treated you
as the vilest slaves; your condition then was extremely ignominious;
ye were as lost, and I redeemed you: and now buried is the
recollection of so illustrious a kindness, which deserved to be for
ever remembered."
    He afterwards adds, "I have made you to walk", &c. The Prophet
here reminds them of the desert, that the Israelites might know that
God might have justly closed up against them an entrance into the
land, though he had promised it for an inheritance to Abraham. For
how was it that the Lord led them about for so long a time, except
that they, as far as they could, had denied God, and rendered
themselves unworthy of enjoying the promised land? Then the Prophet
indirectly blames the Israelites here for having been the cause why
God detained them for forty years without introducing them
immediately into the promised land; which might have easily been
done, had they not closed the door against themselves by their
ingratitude. This is one reason why the Prophet now speaks of the
forty years. And then, as God had in various ways testified his
kindness towards the Israelites, he had thus bound them the more to
himself; but an ungodly forgetfulness had buried all his favors. God
daily rained manna on them from heaven; he also gave them drink from
a dry rock; he guided them during the day by a pillar of cloud, and
in the night by fire: and we also know how often God bore with them,
and how many proofs he gave them of his forbearance. The Prophet,
then, by speaking here of the forty years, meant to counsel the
Israelites to call to mind the many favors, by which they were bound
to God, while they were miraculously led by him for forty years in
the desert.
    He now subjoins, "I have raised from your sons Prophets, and
Nazarites from your young or strong men", (for "bachurim", as we
have elsewhere said, are called by the Hebrews chosen men;) then
from your youth or chosen men have I raised Nazarites. Was it not
so, O children of Israel? or certainly it was so: for the particle
"aph" sometimes is a simple affirmation, and sometimes an addition.
Is not then all this true, O children of Israel? saith Jehovah. God
first reminds them that he had raised up Prophets from their sons.
It if a remarkable proof of God's love, that he deigns to guide his
people by Prophets: for if God were to speak himself from heaven, or
to send his angels down, it would apparently be much more dignified;
but when he so condescends as to employ mortal men and our own
brethren, who are the agents of his Spirit, in whom he dwells, and
by Whose mouth he speaks, it cannot indeed be esteemed as highly as
it deserves, that the Lord should thus accommodate himself to us in
so familiar a manner. This is the reason why he now says, that he
had "raised up Prophets from their sons". They might have objected
and said, that he had introduced the Law, and that then the heaven
was moved, and that the earth shook: but he speaks of his daily
favor in having been pleased to speak continually to his people, as
it were, from mouth to mouth, and this by men: I have raised up, he
says, Prophets from your sons; that is, "I have chosen angels from
the midst of you." The Prophets are indeed, as it were, celestial
ambassadors, and God commands them to be heard, the same as if he
himself appeared in a visible form. Since then he choose angels from
the midst of us, is not this an invaluable favor? We hence see how
much force is contained in this reproof, when the Lord says, that
Prophets had been chosen from his own people.
    And he mentions also the Nazarites. It appears sufficiently
evident from Num. chap. 6, why God appointed Nazarites. Nothing is
more difficult, we know, than to induce men to follow a common rule;
for they ever seek something new; and hence have arisen so many
devices, so many additions, in short, so many leavenings by which
God's worship is corrupted; for each wishes to be more holy than
another, and affects some singularity. In case then any one had a
wish to consecrate himself to God beyond what was commonly required,
the Lord instituted a peculiar observance, that the people might not
attempt any thing without at least his permission. Hence, when any
one wished to consecrate himself to God, though they were all holy,
he yet observed certain regulations: he abstained from wine; he
allowed his hair to grow; in a word, he observed those ceremonial
rites which we find in the chapter already referred to. God now
reminds the Israelites that he had omitted nothing calculated to
preserve them pure and holy, and entire in his worship.
    After having related these two things, he asks them, "Is not
all this true?" The facts were indeed well known: then the question,
it may be said, was superfluous. But the Prophet designedly asked
the Israelites the question here - Is it not so? that he might more
deeply touch their hearts. We indeed often despise things well
known, and we see how many heedlessly allow what they hear, and pass
by things without any thought. Such must have been the torpidity of
the Israelites; they might have confessed without disputing that all
this was true, - that the Lord had raised up Prophets from their
children, and that he had given to them that peculiar service of
which we have spoken; but they mighty at the same time, have
contemptuously overlooked the whole, had not this been added: "What
do ye mean, O Israelites? ye do indeed see that nothing has been
left undone by me to retain you in my service: how then is it now,
that your lust leads you away from me, and that having shaken off
the yoke, ye grow thus wanton against me?" We now perceive why the
Prophet inserted this clause, for it was necessary that the
Israelites should be more sharply roused, that being convicted, they
might acknowledge their guilt.
    But it now follows, "Ye have to the Nazarites quaffed wine, and
on the Prophets ye have laid a command, that they should not
prophesy". God complains here that the service which he had
instituted had been violated by the people. It seems indeed a light
offense, that wine had been given to the Nazarites; for the kingdom
of God, we know, is not meat and drink, (1 Cor. 8: 8) though this
saying of Paul was not yet made known, it was yet true in all ages.
It was then lawful for the Nazarites to drink wine, provided they
used moderation. To this the simple answer is that it was lawful to
drink wine, for they of their own accord undertook to abstain from
it. In similar manner God forbade the priests to drink wine or
strong drink whenever they entered the temple. God indeed did not
wish to be served with this kind of ceremony; but his intention was
to show, by such a rite, that a greater temperance is required in
priests than in the people in general. His purpose then to withdraw
them from the common mode of living, when they entered the temple;
for they were as mediators between God and his people: they ought
then to have consecrated themselves in a special manner. We now see
that the priests were reminded by this external symbol, that greater
holiness was required in them than in the people. The same thing
must be also said of the Nazarites. The Nazarites might drink wine;
but during the time they consecrated themselves to God, they were
not allowed to drink wine, that they might thereby acknowledge that
they were in a manner separated from the common habits of men, and
were come nearer to God. We now understand why it was not lawful for
the Nazarites to drink wine.
    But it is frivolous for the Papists to pretend this example,
and to introduce it in defense of their superstitions, and of their
foolish and rash vows, which they undertake without any regard to
God: for God expressly sanctioned and confirmed whatever the
Nazarites did under the law. Let the Papists show a proof for their
monastic vows, and foolish rites, by which they now trifle with God.
We also know that there is a great difference between the Nazarites
and the Papal monks; for the monks vow perpetual celibacy; others
vow abstinence from flesh during life; and these things are done
foolishly and rashly. They indeed think that the worship of God
consists in these trifles. They promise what is not in their own
power; for they renounce marriage, when they know not whether they
are endued with the gift of chastity. And to abstain from flesh all
their life is more foolish still, because they make this to be a
part of God's service. I do, at the same time, wonder that they
bring forward this example, since there are none so holy under the
Papacy as to abstain from wine. As for the Carthusians and other
monks of the holier sort, they seem determined to take revenge on
abstinence from flesh, for they choose the sweetest and the
liveliest wine; as though they intended to get a compensation for
the loss and deprivation they undergo, when they pledge to God their
abstinence from flesh, by reserving the best wine for themselves.
These things are extremely ludicrous. Besides it is a sufficient
reply if we adduce what I have already said, that the Nazarites did
nothing under the law but what God in his word approved and
sanctioned.
    Since God then so sharply and severely reproved the Israelites
for giving wine to the Nazarites, what must be expected now, when we
transgress the chief commandments of God, when we corrupt his whole
spiritual worship? It seemed apparently but a venial sin, so to
speak, in the Nazarites to drink wine. Had they become wanton or
robbed, or had they done wrong to their brethren, or committed
forgery, the charge against them would have doubtless been much more
atrocious. Yet the Prophet does not now abstain from bitterly
complaining that they drank wine. Then, since God would have us to
worship him in a spiritual manner, a much heavier charge lies
against us, if we violate his spiritual worship. As, for instance,
if we now pollute the sacraments, if we corrupt the purity of divine
worship, if we treat his word with scorn, yea, if we transgress as
to these main points of religion, much less is our excuse. Let us
then remember that the Prophet here reproves the Israelites for
giving wine to the Nazarites.
    He then adds, that they "commanded the Prophets not to
prophesy". It is certain that the Prophets were not forbidden to
speak, at least expressly forbidden: but when the liberty of
teaching faithfully as they ought to do is taken away from God's
servants, and a command to this effect is given them, it is the same
thing as to reject wholly their doctrine. The Israelites wished
Prophets to be among them; and yet they could not endure their plain
reproofs. But when they had polluted the worship of God, when their
whole conduct became dissolute, the Prophets sharply inveighed
against them: this freedom could not be endured by the Israelites;
they wished to be spared and flattered. What then the Prophet now
lays to their charge is that they forbade God's servants to declare
the word freely and honestly as God had commanded them. Hence he
says, On the Prophets they have laid a charge, that they should not
prophesy.
    This evil reigns in the world at this day. It would indeed be
an execrable audacity wholly to reject the Lord's word; this is what
even ungodly men dare not openly to do: but they wish at the same
time some middle course to be adopted, that God might not fully
exercise authority over them. They then would gladly put restraint
on the Holy Spirit, so as not to allow him to speak but within
certain limitations: "See, we willingly allow thee some things, but
this we cannot bear: so much asperity is extremely odious." And
under the Papacy at this day the liberty of prophesying is wholly
suppressed: and among us how many there are who wish to impose laws
on God's servants beyond which they are not to pass? But we see what
the Prophet says here, - that the word of God is repudiated when the
freedom of teaching is restrained, and men wish to be flattered, and
desire their sins to be covered, and cannot bear free admonitions.
    Let us also notice the word "command", which the Prophet uses.
"Tsuh" means to order, to command, or to determine, in an
authoritative manner. The Prophet then does not expostulate with
them, because there were many who clamored, who murmured against the
Prophets, as it is always the case; but he rather condemns the
audacity of the chief men for daring to consult how they might
silence the Prophets, and not allow them the free liberty of
teaching, as we find it to be done even now. For not only in taverns
and lurking-places do the ungodly clamour when their sins are
severely reproved, but they also go forth publicly and complain that
too much liberty is allowed the ministers of the word, and that some
course ought to be adopted to make them speak more moderately. It is
then this sacrilege that the Prophet now rebukes, when he says, that
the ungodly commanded the Prophets, that they should not prophecy,
as though they made a law, as though they wished to proclaim a
decree, that the Prophets should not speak so boldly and so freely.
It now follows -

Amos 2:13
Behold, I am pressed under you, as a cart is pressed [that is] full
of sheaves.

    The verb "'ik" in Hebrew is often transitive, and it is also a
neuter. This place then may admit of two interpretations. The first
is, that God was pressed under the Israelites, as a wagon groans
under too much weight; and so God expostulates by Isaiah, that he
was weighed down by the Israelites, 'Ye constrain me,' he says, 'to
labour under your sins' (Isa. 1: 14.) The sense then, that God was
pressed down under them, may be viewed as not unsuitable: and yet
the more received interpretation is this, "Behold, I will bind you
fast as a wagon is bound." I am, however, more inclined to take the
first meaning, - that God here reprehends the Israelites, because he
had been pressed down by them: for "tachteichem" properly signifies,
"Under you," which some render, but strainedly, "Is your place:" for
when the verb is transitive, they say, that "tachteichem" must be
rendered "In your place:" but this is frigid and forced; and the
whole passage will run better, if we say, "I am bound fast under
you, as though ye were a wagon full of sheaves;" that is, "Ye are to
me intolerable." For God carried that people on his shoulders; and
when they loaded him with the burden of iniquities, it is no wonder
that he said that they were like a wagon - a wagon filled with many
sheaves: "Ye are light as wind, but ye are also to me very
burdensome, and I am forced at length to shake you off:" and this he
afterwards shows.

Prayer.

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast not only redeemed us by the
blood of thy only begotten Son, but also guides us during our
earthly pilgrimage, and suppliest us with whatever is needful, - 0
grant, that we may not be unmindful of so many favors, and turn away
from thee and follow our sinful desires, but that we may continue
bound to thy service, and never burden thee with our sins, but
submit ourselves willingly to thee in true obedience, that by
glorifying thy name we may carry thee both in body and soul, until
thou at length gatherest us into that blessed kingdom which has been
obtained for us by the blood of thy Son. Amen.


Lecture Fifty-third.

Amos 2:14-16
14 Therefore the flight shall perish from the swift, and the strong
shall not strengthen his force, neither shall the mighty deliver
himself:
15 Neither shall he stand that handleth the bow; and [he that is]
swift of foot shall not deliver [himself]: neither shall he that
rideth the horse deliver himself.
16 And [he that is] courageous among the mighty shall flee away
naked in that day, saith the LORD.
    
    I explained yesterday the verse, in which the Prophet says, in
the name of God, that the people were like a grievous and heavy
burden, as though they were a wagon laden with many sheaves. I
stated that the Prophet's words are differently explained by many
interpreters, who give this view, - that God compares himself to a
loaded wagon, under which the people were to be crushed. But no
necessity constrains us to take the same verb in two senses, active
and neuter, as they do; and then the comparison seems not quite
suitable; and farther, it is better, as I have said, to say, that
God complains, that he was loaded and pressed down under the people,
than to render "tachteichem" "In your place;" for this is wholly a
strained rendering. But most suitable is the Prophet's meaning, when
understood as the complaint of God, that it was a grievous thing to
bear the burdens of the people, when he saw that they were men of
levity, and, at the same time, burdensome.
    Hence the Prophet now denounces vengeance such as they
deserved; and he says first, "Perish shall flight from the swift",
&c., that is, no one will be so swift as to escape by fleeing; and
the valiant shall do nothing by fighting; for it is to confirm
strength when one resists an adversary and repels assaults. The
valiant, therefore, shall fight with no advantage; and then, "The
strong shall not deliver his own life: he who holds the bow shall
not stand"; that is, he who is equipped with a bow, and repels his
enemy at a distance, shall not be able to stand in his place. "He
who is swift on foot shall not be able to flee, nor he who mounts a
horse"; which means that whether footmen or horsemen, they shall
not, by their celerity, be able to escape death. And, lastly, he who
is stout and intrepid in heart among the valiant shall "flee away
naked", being content with life alone, and only anxious to provide
for his own safety.
    The Prophet intimates by all these words, that so grievous
would be the slaughter of the people, that it would be a miracle if
any should escape.
    We now then see how severely the prophet at the very beginning
handled this people. He no doubt observed their great obduracy: for
he would not have assailed them so sharply at first, had they not
been for a long time rebellious and had despised all warnings and
threatening. Amos was not the first who addressed them; but the
Israelites had hardened themselves against all threatenings before
he came to them. It therefore behaved him sharply to reprove them,
as God treats men according to their disposition. I come now to the
third chapter.


Chapter 3.

Amos 3:1,2
Hear this word that the LORD hath spoken against you, O children of
Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of
Egypt, saying,
You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I
will punish you for all your iniquities.

    The Prophet wished doubtless by these words to confirm his own
authority, for he saw that his doctrine was regarded with contempt:
and it is probable that the words recited here were not only once
delivered by him, but had been often repeated. We know how great was
the pride and confidence of that people: it was therefore needful to
beat it down, that they might be habituated to dread and fear, when
God reproved them by his Prophets.
    It was then the common mode of speaking, when he said, "Hear
the word which God has spoken concerning your, O children of
Israel". He brings forward here the name of God, that they might
know that they had not to do with a mortal man, or with a shepherd,
such as he was. We then observe here, what I have just referred to,
and that is, that the Prophet seeks to strengthen his authority as a
teacher, that he might gain more respect among the people. But he
adds, "concerning the whole family which I brought up out of Egypt".
It is certain that this discourse was not addressed except to the
ten tribes; why, then, does the Prophet speak here so generally?
Even because the kingdom of Israel formed the greater portion of the
race of Abraham, and on this account they boasted that the adoption
continued to be possessed by them. Since, then, they despised the
tribe of Judah, and the half-tribe of Benjamin, which was connected
with it, and had ever boasted of their great number, the Prophet
says here, by way of concession, that they were indeed the blessed
seed, the posterity of Abraham; in a word, the elect people, whom
God had redeemed from Egypt. Then the Prophet includes not here the
kingdom of Judah, but concedes to the Israelites what they boasted,
- that they were the elect people, the holy race of Abraham, the
very nation which had been miraculously delivered. "Let, then," he
says, "all these boastings be granted, yet God will not, on this
account, desist from executing his judgment upon them."
    We now apprehend the design of the Prophet: he first seeks to
gain respect for his doctrine, and takes occasion to speak of his
own vocation, that he brought nothing of his own, but only
discharged faithfully the office committed to him; yea, that he was
the organ of the Holy Spirit, and adduced nothing from his own mind,
but only spoke what the Lord had commanded him. And then, as the
Israelites, relying on their large number, thought that wrong was
done them, when they were severely reprehended by the Prophets, and
as there was an absurd rivalship between them and the kingdom of
Judah, the Prophet concedes to them that for which they were
foolishly proud; but, at the same time, he shows that they in vain
confided in their number, inasmuch as God summoned them to judgment,
though they were the elect people, and the holy seed, and the
redeemed nation. These are the main points.
    The Prophet afterwards declares what he had in charge, "Only
you have I known of all the families of the earth: I will therefore
visit you for your iniquities". Many think that he still concedes to
the Israelites what they were wont to boast of, - that they were
separated from the common class of men, because the Lord had adopted
them: but it seems rather to be a reproach cast on them. God then
brings forward here his benefits, of which we noticed yesterday a
similar instance, that he might enhance the more the sin of the
people, in returning the worst recompense to God, by whom they had
been so liberally and so kindly treated: "I," he says, "have loved
you only." It is indeed true, that the Israelites, as we have in
other places often observed, gloried in their privileges; but the
Prophet seems not to have this in view. God then expostulates with
them for being so ungrateful: "You only", he says, "have I known".
It is indeed certain that God's care is extended to the whole human
race, yea even to oxen and asses, and to the very sparrows. Even the
young of ravens cry to him, and the smallest bird is fed by him. We
hence see that God's providence extends to all mortal beings; but
yet not in an equal degree. God has ever known all men so as to give
what is needful to preserve life. God has, therefore, made his sun
to rise on all the human race, and has also made the earth to
produce food. Then as to the necessaries of life, he performs the
office of a Father towards all men. But he has known his chosen
people, because he has separated them from other nations, that they
might be like his own family. Israel, then, is said to be known,
because God favored them alone with a gratuitous adoption, and
designed them to be a peculiar people to himself. This is the
knowledge of which the Prophet now speaks.
    But by saying that they "only", "rak", had been "known", he
shows that they had been chosen through God's singular favor, for
there was no difference between the seed of Abraham and other
nations, when regarded in themselves, otherwise this exception would
have been superfluous. For if there had been any superiority or
merit in the people of Israel, this objection might have readily
been made, "We have indeed been chosen, but not without cause, for
God had respect to our worthiness." But as they in nothing differed
from other nations, and as the condition of all was alike by nature,
the Lord upbraids them with this, that he had "known them only"; as
though he said "How has it happened, that ye are my peculiar
possession and heritage? Has it been by your merit? Has it been
because I was more bound to you than to other nations? Ye cannot
allege these things. It has therefore been my gratuitous adoption.
Ye are then the more bound to me, and less excusable is your
ingratitude for rendering to me so unjust a recompense." So also
Paul says, 'Who makes thee to differ?' (1 Cor. 4: 7.) He wished to
show that every excellency in men ought to be ascribed to God. For
the same purpose it is said here, you only have I loved and known of
all the families of the earth: "What were you? Ye were even the
children of Adam, as all other nations; the same has been the
beginning of all. There is then no reason for you to say, that I was
attached to you by any prepossession; I freely chose you and chose
you alone." All this tends to amplify grace; and ingratitude on
their part does hereby appear more evident. For had God spoken these
words of his general benefits, the guilt of his chosen people would
not have been so great: but when he says that they only had been
chosen, when others were passed by, their impiety seemed doubtless
more base and wicked in not acknowledging God in their turn, so as
to devote themselves wholly to Him, to whom they owed every thing.
    And the bounty of God shines forth also in this respect, that
he had known the Israelites alone, though there were many other
nations. Had God owed any thing to men, he would not have kept it
from them; this is certain. But since he repudiated all other
nations, it follows, that they were justly rejected, when he made no
account of them. Whence then was it that he chose the Israelites? We
here see how highly is God's grace exalted by this comparison of one
people with all other nations. And the same thing also appears from
these words, of all the families of the earth; as though God had
said, "There were many nations in the world, the number of men was
very great; but I regarded them all as nothing, that I might take
you under my protection; and thus I was content with a small number,
when all men were mine; and this I have done through mere favor, for
there was nothing in you by which ye excelled others, nor could they
allege that they were unjustly rejected. Since then I preferred you
of my own will, it is evident that I was under no obligation to
you." We now then understand the design of the Prophet's words.
    He then subjoins, "I will therefore visit upon you your
iniquities". God declares here, that the Israelites would have to
suffer a heavier judgment, because they acknowledged not their
obligations to God, but seemed willfully to despise his favor and to
scorn him, the author of so many blessings. Since then the
Israelites were bound by so many and so singular benefits, and they
at the same time were as wicked as other nations the Prophet shows,
that they deserved a heavier punishment, and that God's judgment,
such as they deserved, was nigh at hand. This is the substance of
the whole. It now follows -

Amos 3
3 Can two walk together, except they be agreed?
4 Will a lion roar in the forest, when he hath no prey? will a young
lion cry out of his den, if he have taken nothing?
5 Can a bird fall in a snare upon the earth, where no gin [is] for
him? shall [one] take up a snare from the earth, and have taken
nothing at all?
6 Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be
afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done
[it]?
7 Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret
unto his servants the prophets.
8 The lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord GOD hath spoken,
who can but prophesy?
    
    The Prophet here accumulates similitudes which may, however, be
reduced to five particulars. He first shows that he uttered no empty
words, but had God's authority for what he said; and he appeals to
him as his witness and approver: this is one thing. Then he shows
that God designedly announces the punishment he would inflict on
transgressors, that they might in time repent, and that he does not
cry out for no reason, as unreflecting men grow angry for nothing,
but that he is driven to anger by just causes, and therefore
terrifies them by his Prophets. He teaches, thirdly, that nothing
happens by chance, that the Israelites might thereby be made to
consider more attentively the judgments of God. In the fourth place,
he declares that men are extremely stupid, when they are not moved
by the threats which they hear proceed from God. He intimates, in
the fifth place, that the execution of them was ready to take place,
and that when God has denounced anything, his threatenings are not
vain, such as those by which children are terrified.
    These, then, are the five points, which we shall hereafter
notice in their due order. He at the same time confirms what he said
at the beginning of the chapter, - that God did not suddenly take
vengeance on the Israelites, but called them to repentance, provided
they were healable. He had indeed spoken before more distinctly,
'For three transgressions, and for fours I will not be propitious to
them:' but now he demands attention from the people of Israel, "Hear
this ye children of Israel, Will two men walk together, except they
agree among themselves?" By these words he teaches, that though God
might have immediately and unexpectedly brought punishment on them,
he yet spared them and suspended his judgment, until they repented,
provided they were not wholly irreclaimable. Amos now then confirms
the truth, that God would not punish the Israelites, as he might
justly, but would first try whether there was any hope of
repentance.
    Let us now come to the first similitude; he asks "Will two walk
together without agreeing?" Some forcibly misapply the Prophet's
words, as though the meaning was, that God was constrained to depart
from that people, because he saw that they were going astray so
perversely after their lusts. The sense, according to these, would
be, "Do you wish me to walk with you?" that is "Do you wish that my
blessing should dwell among you, that I should show to you, as
usual, my paternal love, and bountifully support you? Why then do ye
not walk with me, or, why should there not be a mutual consent? Why
do ye not respond to me? for I am ready to walk with you." But this
exposition, as ye see, is too strained. There are other two, which
are these, - either that the Prophet intimates here that so many of
God's servants did not, as it were with one mouth, threaten the
Israelites in vain, - or, that the consent of which he speaks was
that of God with his Prophets. This last exposition being rather
obscure, requires to be more clearly explained. Some, then, take the
sense of this verse to be the following, - "I am not alone in
denouncing punishment on you; for God has before warned you by other
Prophets; many of them still live; and ye see how well we agree
together: we have not conspired after the manner of men, and it has
not happened by any agreements that Isaiah and Micah denounce on you
what ye hear from my mouth. It is then a hidden accordance, which
proceeds from the Holy Spirit." This sense is not unsuitable.
    But there is a third equally befitting, to which I have briefly
referred, and that is, that the Prophet here affirms that he speaks
by God's command, as when two agree together, when they follow the
same road; as when one meets with a chance companion, he asks him
where he goes, and when he answers that he is going to a certain
place, he says I am going on the same road with you. Then Amos by
this similitude very fitly sets forth the accordance between God and
his Prophets; for they did not rashly obtrude themselves so as to
announce anything according to their own will, but waited for the
call of God, and were fully persuaded that they did not by any
chance go astray, but kept the road which the Lord had pointed out.
This could not indwell have been a sufficiently satisfactory proof
of his call; but the Prophet had already entered on his course of
teaching; and though nearly the whole people clamored against him,
he yet had given no obscure proofs of his call. He does not then
here mention the whole evidence, as though he intended to show that
he was from the beginning the Prophet of God; but he only confirms,
by way of reproof, what his teaching had before sufficiently
attested. Hence he asks, "Will two walk together except they agree
among themselves?" as though he said, "Ye are mistaken in judging of
me, as though I were alone, and in making no account of God: ye
think me to be a shepherd, and this is true; but it ought to be
added, that I am sent by God and endued with the gift of prophecy.
Since then I speak by God's Spirit, I do not walk alone; for God
goes before, and I am his companion. Know then that whatever I bring
forward proceeds not from me, but God is the author of what I
teach."
    This seems to be the genuine meaning of the Prophet: by this
similitude he affirms that he faithfully discharged his office, for
he had not separated himself from God, but was his companion: as
when two agree together to travel the same road; so also he shows
that he and God were agreed. If, however, the former interpretation
be more approved, I will not dispute the point; that is, that the
Prophet here confirms his own doctrine by alleging that he was not
alone, but had other colleagues; for it was no common confirmation,
when it appeared evident that the other Prophets added their
testimony to what he taught. As, however, he does not apply this
similitude in this way, I know not whether such was his design: I
have therefore brought forward what seems to me to be a simpler
view.
    The second similitude follows, "Will a lion roar in the forest
without a prey? Will a lion send forth his voice from his den when
he has caught nothing?" By this verse he intimates that God does not
cry out for nothing by his Prophets; for ungodly men supposed that
the air was only made to reverberate by an empty sound, when the
Prophets threatened, "These," they said, "are mere words;" as though
indeed they could not find that the necessity of crying arose from
themselves, because they had provoked God by their vices. Hence the
Prophet, meeting their objection, says, "If lions roar not, except
when they have obtained a prey, shall God cry from heaven and send
forth his voice as far as the earth, when there is no prey?" The
meaning is, that the word of God was very shamefully despised by the
Israelites, as though there was no reason for crying, as though God
was trifling with them. His word is indeed precious, and is not
thrown heedlessly into the air, as if it were a mere refuse; but it
is an invaluable seed. Since the Lord cries, it is not, says Amos,
without a lawful cause. How so? The lions do not indeed roar without
prey; God then does not cry by his Prophets, except for the best
reason. It hence follows that the Israelites were hitherto extremely
stupid inasmuch as they did not listen with more earnestness and
attention to the teaching of the Prophets, as though God had uttered
only an empty sound.
    The third similitude now follows, "Will a bird fall on the
earth, he says, without a fowler?" The Prophet means here that
nothing happens without being foreseen by God; for as nets are laid
for birds, so God ensnares men by his hidden punishments.
Unexpectedly indeed calamity comes, and it is commonly ascribed to
chance; but the Prophet here reminds us that God stretches his nets,
in which men are caught, though they think that chance rules, and
observe not the hand of God. They are deceived, he says; for the
bird foresees not the ensnaring prepared for him; but yet he falls
not on the earth without the fowler: for nets weave not themselves
by chance, but they are made by the industry of the man who catches
birds. So also calamities do not happen by chance, but proceed from
the secret purpose of God. But we must observe, that similitudes
ought not to be too strictly applied to the subject in hand. Were
one to asks how God could compare himself here to a fowler, as there
is craft and artifice employed in catching innocent birds, when nets
are laid for them, it would be a frivolous question; for it is
evident enough what the Prophet meant, and that the design of his
words was to show, that punishments fall on men, and that they are
ensnared through the secret purpose of God; for God has long ago
foreseen what he will do, though men act heedlessly, as the birds
who foresee nothing.
    Then it follows in the fourth place, "Will the fowler remove
his snare before he has made a capture?" In this second clause the
Prophet intimates that the threatening of God would not be without
effect; for he will execute whatever he declares. It is indeed
certain, that fowlers often return home empty, and gather their nets
though they have taken nothing; but the Prophet, as I have said, in
using these similitudes, only states what fowlers usually do, when
they are in hope of some prey. As for instance, when one spreads his
nets, he will wait, and will not gather his nets until he takes some
prey, if so be that a prey should come; he may indeed wait in vain
all night. Then as fowlers are not wearied, and wish not to lose
their labour after they have spread their nets, so also the Prophet
says that God does not in vain proclaim his threatenings to serve as
empty bugbears, but that his nets remain until he has taken his
prey; which means, that God will really execute what he has
threatened by his Prophets. The meaning then is, that God's word is
not ineffectual, but when God declares any thing, it is sure to be
accomplished: and hence he reproves the Israelites for receiving so
heedlessly and with deaf ears all God's threatening, as though he
was only trifling with them. "It will not be," he says, "as you
expect; for God will take his prey before he takes up his nets."
    He adds, in the last place, "Shall a trumpet sound and the
people tremble not?" Here he reprehends, as I have said, the
torpidity of the people, to whom all threatening were a sport: "When
a trumpet sounds," he says, "all tremble; for it is a signal of
danger. All then either fly for aid or stand amazed, when the
trumpet sounds. God himself cries, his voice deserves much more
attention than the trumpet which fills men's minds with dread; and
yet it is a sound uttered to the deaf. What then does this prove,
but that madness possesses the minds of men? Are they not destitute
of all judgment and of every power of reason?" We hence see that the
Prophet in these words intended to show, that the Israelites were in
a manner fascinated by the devil, for they had no thought of evils;
and though they knew that God sounded the trumpet and denounced
ruin, they yet remained heedless, and were no more moved than if all
things were in a quiet state. What remains I cannot now finish.
    
Prayer.
    
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou art pleased daily to exhort us to
repentance, and dost not suddenly execute thy judgment by which we
might be in an instant overwhelmed, but givest us time to seek
reconciliation, - O grant, that we may now attend to thy teaching,
and all thy admonitions and threatenings, and become teachable and
obedient to thee, lest thou be constrained on finding us hardened
against thy threatening, and wholly irreclaimable, to bring on us
extreme vengeance: make us then so to submit ourselves to thee in
the spirit of teachableness and obedience, that being placed under
the protection of thy Son, we may truly call on thee as our Father,
and find thee to be so in reality, when thou shalt show to us that
paternal love, which thou hast promised, and which we have all
experienced from the beginning, who have truly and from the heart
called on thy name, through the same, even Christ our Lord. Amen.


Lecture Fifty-fourth.
    
    In our last Lecture were noticed these words of Amos - that a
"whole people tremble at the sound of a trumpet"; he now seems to
add a sentence wholly different, and says, "No calamity happens,
except through God". But he had before said what we already noticed
respecting the sound of the trumpet, that the people might
understand that nothing happens by accident, and that punishments
are, for just reasons, inflicted by the Lord; and this he soon after
confirms by saying, that God did nothing, without having first
revealed his secret to his Prophets. The meaning then is that the
people at Israel were extremely stupid for not having repented after
so many warnings; nay, they remained still in their perverseness,
though they had been constrained by the most powerful means.
    We now then comprehend what the Prophet means; but that the
whole subject may be made more clear, let us notice this intervening
sentence, "there is no evil in the city which God has not done". By
these words the Prophet reminds us, that calamities happen not by
chance, as the vulgar of mankind believe; for the words, "Prosperous
or adverse fortunes" are, we know, in the mouths of all, as though
God was idle in heaven, and took no care of human affairs. Hence,
whatever happens, the world usually ascribes it to fortune. But the
Prophet here shows that the government of this world is administered
by God, and that nothing happens except through his power. He does
not, indeed, treat here of sin: but the Prophet, according to the
usual practice, calls whatever is adverse to us, "ra'ah", evil.
Whatever, then, we naturally shun, is usually called an evil; and
this mode of speaking Amos follows here, as God is said by Isaiah to
have in his power night and day, light and darkness, good and evil,
(Isa. 45. 7.) When good and evil are spoken of there, it is certain
that what is referred to is prosperity and adversity. So also here,
the Prophet teaches that men are chastised by God whenever anything
adverse happens to them, as though he said that fortune rules not,
as the world imagines, and that things do not take place at random;
but that God is at all times the judge of the world. In short, Amos
wished to recall the people to an examination of their lives, as
though he summoned them to the tribunal of God; and he showed by
evident external tokens that God was justly offended with the
Israelites: "Ye see that you are severely dealt with, do you think
that God sleeps idly in heaven? Since nothing happens but by the
will of God, he now designs to awaken you by treating you with so
much sharpness and severity, so that you may know your vices." We
now then perceive the design of the Prophet in saying, that there
was no evil in the city which God had not done.
    In a similar manner, also, does God by Jeremiah sharply
expostulate with the people, because they imputed slaughters in war,
famine, and other evils, to fortune. When, therefore, any calamity
happened, the Jews complained of bad fortune, as the world are wont
to do. God was displeased and severely reproved this profane notion;
for the government of the world was thus taken away from him: for,
were any thing to take place against his will, so much would be
abstracted from his power; and farther men would grow hardened in
their sins; for however grievously he might punish them, they would
not yet acknowledge his hand: they might indeed cry out under the
strokes, and feel how severe his scourges were; but they would not
regard the hand of the striker, which is the principal thing, as it
is stated elsewhere, (Isa. 9: 13.) Then the Prophet takes this as
granted, that, whenever any calamity happens, men are extremely
stupid, if they are not roused and reflect on their sins, and
consider the tokens of God's wrath, so as to flee to him, and
confess themselves guilty and implore his mercy.
    But he had before spoken of the sound of the trumpet; for every
excuse was thereby taken away from the Israelites, as God had not
only recalled them to the right way by his scourges but also
preceded these by his word: and he shows how justly he was
displeased with them; hence the Prophet adds another sentence, "For
the Lord Jehovah will do nothing without revealing his secret to his
servants, the Prophets". The Prophet declares in this verse, that
God dealt not with the Israelites as with heathen nations; for God
punished other people without warning them by his word; he summoned
to judgment neither the Idumeans, nor the Ammonites, nor the
Egyptians, but executed his vengeance, though he never addressed
them. Different was his dealing with the Israelites; for God not
only brought on them such punishment as they deserved, but he
preceded it by His word, and showed beforehand what evil was nigh
them, that they might anticipate it; he indeed gave them time to
repent, and was ready to pardon them, had they been capable of being
restored. Now then the Prophet aggravates the guilt of the people,
because they had not only been chastised by the Lord, but they
might, if they chose, have turned aside their punishment; instead of
doing so they hardened themselves in their wickedness.
    God then will do nothing without revealing his secret to his
servants, the Prophets. This ought to be confined to that people,
and it ought also to be confined to the punishments of which the
Prophet speaks. It is certain that God executes many judgments which
are hid both from men and angels; and Amos did not intend to impose
a necessity on God, as if he was not free to do any thing without
previously revealing it; such was not the Prophet's design; but his
object was simply to condemn the Israelites for their irreclaimable
perverseness and obstinacy, that, having been warned, they did not
seriously think of repenting, but despised all God's threatening,
and even scorned them. God then will do nothing, that is, "God will
not treat you in an ordinary way, as he does with other nations,
whom he chastises without speaking to them. They, for the most part,
understand not what is done; but God in a paternal manner kindly
reminds you of your sins, shows why he resolves to chastise you and
forewarns you, that you may have time to seek and ask forgiveness."
    God therefore reveals his secret to his Prophets; that is, "He
does not suddenly or unexpectedly punish you, as he might do, and as
ye see that he does with respect to others; but he proclaims what he
will do, and sends his messengers, as though they were heralds sent
to denounce war on you; and at the same time they open a way for
reconciliation, provided ye are not wholly past recovery, and
perverse in your wickedness. Ye are then doubly inexcusable, if God
can do nothing by his word and by the punishment which he afterwards
subjoins to his word." We now comprehend the object of the Prophet.
Then foolish is the question, at least unreasonable, "Does God here
bind himself by a certain law, that he will do nothing, but what he
previously reveals to his Prophets?" For Amos means not this, but
only affirms that it was the common method which the Lord adopted in
chastising that people. It is certain, that the Prophets did not
know many things; for God distributed his Spirit to them by measure:
all things then were not revealed to the Prophets. But Amos here
only intimates that God did not deal with his chosen people as he
did with heathen nations; for these often found God unexpectedly
displeased with them, and had no time to reflect, that they might
repent. Much more kindly and mercifully has God acted, says Amos,
with that people; for God was unwilling suddenly to overwhelm or to
surprise them, but has warned them by his Prophets. We see how
widely this doctrine opens; but it is enough to understand the
Prophet's design, and to know the purpose to which his discourse
ought to be applied.
    God then will do nothing without revealing first his secret to
the Prophets. He calls it a secret, because men are perplexed when
God executes vengeance on them, and stand amazed: but when they are
in time warned, then what God designs becomes evident to them, and
they know the cause and the source of punishment. Thus then the
secret is revealed which was hid from miserable men: and the guilt
of the people is doubled, when, after these threatening, they do not
repent.
    It now follows, "The lion roars who would not fear? The Lord
Jehovah speaks, who would not prophesy?" In this verse the Prophet
reproved the Israelites for their usual contentions with the
Prophets when their sins were sharply reprehended. Thus indeed are
men wont to do; they consider not that Prophets are sent from above,
and that there is a charge committed to them. Hence, when Prophets
are severe in their words, the world clamors and wrangles: "What do
these men intend? Why do they urge us so much? Why do they not allow
us to rest quietly? for they provoke against us the wrath of God."
Whenever then men are roused, they immediately menace God's Prophets
with strife and contention, and regard not threatening as coming
from God himself. This vice the Prophet now condemns: "The lion
roars, he says, who would not fear? God speaks, who would not
prophesy?" "Ye think that I am your adversary; but ye can gain
nothing by quarreling with me: were I silent, the voice of God would
of itself be formidable enough. The evil then proceeds not from my
mouth, but from God's command; for I am constrained, willing or
unwilling, to obey God: he has chosen me to be a Prophet, and has
showed what he intends that I should proclaim. What can I do, he
says? I am not at liberty to invent revelations; but I faithfully
bring forth to you what has been delivered to me by the Lord. How
great then is your madness, that ye contend with me, and consider
not that your strife and contention is with God himself?" We now see
what the Prophet meant, and also understand, why he adduced the four
similitudes, of which we have already spoken. I now proceed with the
remaining context.

Amos 3:9
Publish in the palaces at Ashdod, and in the palaces in the land of
Egypt, and say, Assemble yourselves upon the mountains of Samaria,
and behold the great tumults in the midst thereof, and the oppressed
in the midst thereof.
    
    Amos begins here to set judges over the Israelites; for they
would not patiently submit to God's judgment: and he constitutes and
sets over them as judges the Egyptians and Idumeans. This prophecy
no doubt increasingly exasperated the minds of the people, who were
already very refractory and rebellious; but yet this was necessary.
God, indeed, had cited them to his tribunal, as long as a hope of
reconciliation remained: when they became angry on account of God's
threatening, clamored against his servants, yea, and obstinately
disputed, as though they were guilty of no fault, what remained, but
that God should constitute judges over them, whom the Prophet names,
even the Egyptians and Idumeans? "Ye cannot bear my judgment;
unbelievers, who are already condemned, shall pronounce sentence
upon you. I am indeed your legitimate judge; but as ye have
repudiated me, I will prove to you how true my judgment is; I will
be silent, the Egyptians shall speak." And who were these Egyptians?
Even those who were equally guilty with the Israelites, and labored
under the same charges, or were at least not far from deserving a
similar punishment; and yet God would compel the Israelites to hear
the sentence that was to be pronounced on them by the Egyptians and
Idumeans. We know how proudly the Israelites gloried in their
primogeniture; but the Lord here exposes to scorn this arrogance,
because they made such bad use of his benefits. We now then perceive
the Prophet's intention.
    "Publish, he says, in the palaces of Ashdod, in the palaces of
the land of Egypt, and say" - what? "Assemble on the mountains of
Samaria. He would have the Egyptians and the Idumeans to meet
together, and the mountains of Samaria to be as it were the theatre,
though the idea of a tribunal is more suitable to the similitude
that is used. It was then, as though the Egyptians and Idumeans were
to be seated on an elevated place; and God were to set before them
the oppressions, the robberies and iniquitous pillages, which
prevailed in the kingdom of Israel. "Assemble then on the mountains
of Samaria". The Prophet alludes to the situation of the country:
for though Samaria was situated on a plain, there were yet mountains
around it; and they thought themselves hid there, and were as wine
settled on its lees. God says now, "Let the Egyptians and Idumeans
meet and view the scene; I will allot them a place, from which they
can see how greatly all kinds of iniquity prevail in the kingdom of
Israel. They indeed dwell in their plain, and think themselves
sufficiently defended by the mountains around; but from these
mountains even the very blind will be able to see how abominable and
shameful is their condition."
    Let them come and see, he says, "the oppressions in the midst
of her". The word he uses is "mehumot", tumults; but he means
oppressions, committed without any regard to reason or justice, when
all things are done with glamour and violence. "Let them see then
the oppressions, let them see the distresses." He speaks of their
deeds; he afterwards mentions the persons; but the Prophet means the
same thing, though he uses different forms of expression, that is,
that the kingdom of Israel was filled with many crimes; for plunder
of every kind prevailed there and men kept within no bounds of
moderation, but by tumult and clamour pillaged the poor and the
miserable. It now follows -

Amos 3:10
For they know not to do right, saith the LORD, who store up violence
and robbery in their palaces.
    
    In this verse he confirms what I have already said of
oppressions: he says that they despised every thing right. But not
to know this lessens not their guilt, as though they ignorantly
offended; but the Prophet means, on the contrary, that they had cast
away tar from them everything that was just and allowed themselves
all liberty in sinning, without any discrimination, without any
shame; as though he said, "They are brute animals, who are void of
all judgments of all reason, and of all shame; for they seek not to
have a light understanding any more." here then he accuses the
Israelites of wilful blindness; for they hardened themselves in
every evil, and extinguished all judgments shame and reasons so that
they no longer distinguished between what was just and unjust: and
he mentions one thing in particular - that they accumulated much
wealth by plunder and robbery. The Israelites were no doubt guilty
of many other crimes; but by stating a part for the whole, he
mentions one thing which includes other things, and intimates,, that
the people were wholly given to all kinds of crimes, and that as
they had cast aside every shame, obliterated every distinction, and
repudiated every regard for justice, they abandoned themselves to
every kind of wickedness. This, is the import of the Prophet's
words.
    But our Prophet points out here the gross sins of the
Israelites, because he had previously constituted the blind as their
judges. Hence it was the same as though he had said, "Though the
Egyptians and the Idumeans are void of light, yet your iniquity is
so palpable, that they will be able to perceive it. There is indeed
no necessity of any subtle disputation, since plunders and pillages
are carried on with so much violence, since no moderation or equity
is any longer observed, and no shame exists; but men rush headlong
with blind impetuosity into every kind of evil; so that the very
blind, though without eyes, can know what your state is. Then the
Egyptians and Idumeans will perceive your vices, when located on the
neighboring mountains." This is the meaning. It now follows -

Amos 3:11,12
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; An adversary [there shall be]
even round about the land; and he shall bring down thy strength from
thee, and thy palaces shall be spoiled.
Thus saith the LORD; As the shepherd taketh out of the mouth of the
lion two legs, or a piece of an ear; so shall the children of Israel
be taken out that dwell in Samaria in the corner of a bed, and in
Damascus [in] a couch.

    The Prophet here announces the punishment God would inflict on
the Israelites. "An enemy, he says, and indeed one around you", &c.
Some think "tsar" to be a verb in the imperative mood; but this
cannot be maintained. But Amos, here declares that an enemy was near
the Israelites, who would besiege them on every side. The ungodly
are ever wont to seek escapes, and if they see the smallest hole,
they think that they can escape. Strange is the presumption of men
with regard to God: when they see themselves hemmed in, they are
really frightened, yea, they become wholly disheartened; but yet
they seek subterfuges on the right hand and on the left, and never
submit to God except when constrained. This is the reason why the
Prophet now says, that "an enemy was near, and indeed around" them;
as though he said, "You have no reason to think that there is any
way of escape open to you; for God has hemmed you in on every side;
there is therefore a siege which so confines you, that you in vain
hope to escape." An enemy, he says, is indeed around - "around the
whole land, who will take away from thee thy strength". Here the
Prophet removes from the Israelites their vain confidence; for they
could not think of God's vengeance, while looking on their own
power. They indeed thought that they had sufficient protection in
their own large number, riches, and arms, as men are wont to set up
against God what proceeds from himself, as though creatures could do
anything against him, and as though God could not take away, when he
pleases, what he has given: and yet such is the blindness of men.
Hence the Prophet says, that all the wealth and all the strength in
which the Israelites excelled would be useless, inasmuch as "an
enemy, he says, armed by God, shall take from thee thy strength; and
thy palaces shall be plundered".
    In the next verse he leaves some hope, though this is not
avowedly done. For when he says that some would be saved, as when a
shepherd snatches from the jaws of a lion the ear of a sheep or two
legs, it is not the Prophet's design to mitigate the severe judgment
of which he had before spoken; but shows, on the contrary, that when
any should be saved, it would not be because the people would defend
themselves, or were able to resist; but that it would be as when a
trembling shepherd snatches some small portion of a spoil from the
lion's mouth. We must bear in mind what I have just said of the
proud confidence of the people; for the Israelites thought that they
were safe enough from danger; and therefore despised all
threatenings. But what does Amos say? "Think not," he says, "that
there will be any defense for you, for your enemies will be like
lions, and there will be no more strength in you to resist them than
in sheep when not only wolves but lions, seize them and take them as
their prey." When any thing is then saved, it is as it were by a
miracle; the shepherd may perhaps take a part of the ear or two legs
from the lion's mouth when he is satisfied. The shepherd dares not
to contend with the lion; he always runs away from him, but the lion
will have his prey and devour it at his pleasure; when he leaves a
part of the ear or two legs, the shepherd will then seize on them,
and say, "See, how many sheep have been devoured by lions:" and
these will be the proof's of his loss. So now the Prophet says, "The
Lord will expose you as a prey to your enemies, and their rapacity
will not be less dreaded by you than that of a lion: in vain then ye
think yourselves defended by your forces; for what is a sheep to a
lion? But if any part of you should remain, it will be like an ear
or a leg: and still more, - as when a lion devours a sheep, and
leaves nothing after having taken his prey until he is satisfied, so
shall it happen to you".
    They are then mistaken who think that the preceding commination
is here designedly mitigated; for the Prophet does not do this, but
continues the same subject, and shows that the whole people would
become a prey, that their enemies would be like lions, and that they
would have no strength to resist. Some hope, I indeed allow, is here
given to the people; for, as it has been before seen, God intended
that there should ever be some remnant as a seed among that chosen
people. This, I admit, is true: but we must yet regard what the
Prophet treats of; and what he had in view. He then did not intend
here expressly to console the Israelites; though incidentally he
says, that some would remain, yet his object was to show that the
whole kingdom was now given up as a prey to lions, and that nothing
would be saved except a very small portion, as when a shepherd
carries away an ear when the wolves and lions had been satiated. It
follows -

Amos 3:13,14
Hear ye, and testify in the house of Jacob, saith the Lord GOD, the
God of hosts,
That in the day that I shall visit the transgressions of Israel upon
him, I will also visit the altars of Bethel: and the horns of the
altar shall be cut off, and fall to the ground.

    Amos, I have no doubt, added this passage, to show that the
superstitions, in which he knew the Israelites falsely trusted,
would be so far from being of any help to them, that they would, on
the contrary, lead them to ruin, because the people were by them
provoking God's wrath the more against themselves. When the
Israelites heard that God was offended with them, they looked on
their sacrifices and other superstitions, as their shield and cover:
for thus do hypocrites mock God. But we know that the sacrifices
offered at Bethel were mere profanations; for the whole worship was
spurious. God had indeed chosen to himself a place where he designed
sacrifices to be offered. The Israelites built a temple without any
command, nay, against the manifest prohibition of God. Since then
they had thus violated and corrupted the whole worship of God,
strange was their madness to dare to obtrude on God their
superstitions, as though they could thus pacify his displeasure! The
Prophet then rebukes now this stupidity and says, "In the day when
God shall visit the sins of Israel, he will inflict punishment on
the sitars of Bethel". By the sins, which the Prophet mentions, he
means plunder, unjust exactions, robbery, and similar crimes; for
there prevailed then, as we have seen, among the people, an
unbridled cruelty, avarice, and perfidiousness.
    Hence he says now, When God "shall visit the sins" of Israel;
that is, when he shall punish avarice, pride, and cruelty; when he
shall execute vengeance on pillages and robberies, he shall then
visit also the altars of Bethel. The Israelites thought that God
would be propitious to them while they sacrificed though they were
wholly abandoned in their lives: they indeed thought that every
uncleanness was purified by their expiations; and they thought that
God was satisfied while they performed an external worship. Hence,
when they offered sacrifices, they imagined that they thus made a
compact with God, and presented such a compensation, that he dared
not to punish their sins. Their own fancy greatly deceives them,"
says Amos. For, as we know, this was, at the same time, their
principal sin, - that they rashly dared to change the worship of
God, that they dared to build a temple without his command; in
short, that they had violated the whole law. God then will begin
with superstitions in executing judgment for the sins of the people.
We now then understand the Prophet's design in saying, that God
would visit the altars of Bethel when inflicting punishment on the
sins of Israel.
    But as it was difficult to produce conviction on this subject,
the Prophet here invites attention, "Hear ye, and testify, he says,
in the house of Jacob". Having bidden them to hear, he introduces
God as the speaker: for the Israelites, as we know they were wont to
do, might have pretended that Amos had, without authority,
threatened such a punishment. "Nothing is mine," he says. We then
see the design of this address, when he says, "Hear": he shows God
to be the author of this prophecy, and that nothing was his own but
the ministration. Hear ye, then, and testify in the louse of Jacob.
By the word testify, he seals his prophecy that it might have more
weight, that they might not think that it was a mere mockery, but
might know that God was dealing seriously with them, Then testify ye
in the house of Jacob. And for the same purpose are the titles which
he ascribes to God, The Lord Jehovah, he says, the God of hosts. He
might have used only one word, "Thus saith Jehovah," as the prophets
mostly do; but he ascribes dominion to him, and he also brings
before them his power, - for what end? To strike the Israelites with
terror, that vain flatteries might no longer, as heretofore, take
possession of them; but that they might understand, that so far were
they from doing anything towards pacifying God's wrath by their
superstitions, that they thereby the more provoked him.
    
Prayer.
    
Grant, Almighty God, that inasmuch as we so provoke thee daily by
our sins, that we are worthy of eternal destruction, and no good
remains in us, and though we are severely chastised with temporal
punishments, thou dost not yet take from us the hope of that mercy,
which thou hast promised in thy Son to those who truly and from the
heart repent and call on thee as their Father, - O grant, that being
touched with the sense of our evils, we may, in true humility, and
with the genuine feeling of penitence, offer ourselves as a
sacrifice to thee, and seek pardon with such groaning, that having
undergone temporal punishments, we may finally enjoy that grace
which is laid up for all sinners, who truly and from the heart turn
to thee and implore that mercy which has been prepared for all those
who really prove themselves to be the members of thine only begotten
Son. Amen.


Lecture Fifty-fifth.
    
    One thing escaped me yesterday: pain in my head prevented me to
look on the book. The Prophet says in the twelfth verse, that the
children of Israel would be so delivered as when a shepherd rescues
only an ear, or some part of a sheep: he adds, "So the children of
Israel shall be rescued who dwell in Samaria in a corner of a bed,
and at Damascus on a couch. This similitude I did not explain. Some
think that Damascus is here compared with Samaria, as the more
opulent city; for Jeroboam the Second had extended the limits of his
kingdom to that city, and subdued some portion of the kingdom of
Syria: they then suppose, that Samaria is called a corner of a bed
on account of its confined state, and Damascus a couch; but there is
no reason for this. He might have better called Damascus a bed.
Others give this exposition, "They who shall escape among the people
of Israeli shall not be the valiant and the brave, who will oppose
the attack of the enemy, or with arms in hand defend themselves; but
those shall be safe who will hide themselves and flee to their
beds." But the Prophet seems here to compare Damascus and Samaria to
beds for this reason, because the Israelites thought that they would
find in them a safe receptacle: "Thought then ye dwell at Samaria
and Damascus as in a safe nest, it will yet be a miracle if a few of
you will escape; it will be as when a shepherd carries away the ear
of a sheep, after the lion has satiated himself." This seems to be
the genuine meaning of the Prophet; for I doubt not but that he
derides the foolish confidence in which the Israelites indulged
themselves, thinking that they were secure from all danger when shut
up within the gates of Samaria or of Damascus. "Ye think that these
nests will be safe for you; but lions, shall break through, and
hardly one in a hundred, or in a thousand, shall in a corner of a
bed escape; it will be as when a lion leaves an ear or part of a
leg." Let us now proceed -

Amos 3:15
And I will smite the winter house with the summer house; and the
houses of ivory shall perish, and the great houses shall have an
end, saith the LORD.
    
    Amos shows again that in vain the great people trusted in their
wealth and fortified places; for these could not hinder God from
drawing them forth to punishment. As then abundance blinds men, and
as they imagine themselves to be as it were inaccessible, especially
when dwelling in great palaces, the Prophet here declares, that
these houses would be no impediment to prevent God's vengeance to
break through; "I will then destroy the winter-house together with
the summer-house". Amos no doubt intended by this paraphrase to
designate the palaces. The poor deem it enough to have a cottage
both for winter and summer; for they change not the parts of their
buildings, so as to inhabit the hotter in winter, and to refresh
themselves in the colder during summer: no such advantage is
possessed by the poor, for they are content with the same dwelling
through life. But as the rich sought warmth in winter, and had their
summer compartments, the Prophet says, that their large and
magnificent buildings would be no protection to the rich, for God's
vengeance would penetrate through them; I will destroy then the
winter with the summer house.
    And then he says, "Fail shall the houses of ivory". We now see
more clearly that the Prophet speaks here against the rich and the
wealthy, who inhabited splendid and magnificent palaces. Perish then
shall the houses of ivory and fail shall the great houses; some say,
"many houses", but improperly; for the Prophet continues the game
idea; and as he had before mentioned houses of ivory so he now calls
them great houses; for they were not only built for use and
convenience, like common and plebeian houses, but also for show and
display; for the rich, we know, are ever lavish and profuse, not
only in their table and dress, but also in their palaces. This is
the meaning. Now follows -



Chapter 4.


Amos 4:1
Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan, that [are] in the mountain of
Samaria, which oppress the poor, which crush the needy, which say to
their masters, Bring, and let us drink.
    
    He who divided the chapters seems not to have well considered
the Prophet's argument: for he pursues here his reproof of the rich,
and he had been prophesying against the chief men in the kingdom of
Israel. We indeed know how much ferocity there is in the rich, when
they become formidable to others by their power. Hence the Prophet
here laughs to scorn their arrogance: "Hear, he says, this word"; as
though he said, "I see how it will be; for these great and pompous
men will haughtily despise my threatening, they will not think
themselves exposed to God's judgment; and they will also think that
wrong is done to them: they will inquire, 'Who I am,' and ask, 'How
dares a shepherd assail them with so much boldness?"' Hear then ye
cows; as though he said, that he cared not for the greatness in
which they prided themselves. "What then is your wealth? It is even
fatness: then I make no more account of you than of cows; ye are
become fat; but your power will not terrify me; your riches will not
deprive me of the liberty of treating you as it becomes me and as
God has commanded me." We hence see that the Prophet here assails
with scorn the chief men of the kingdom, who wished to be sacred and
untouched. The Prophet asks by what privilege they meant to excuse
themselves for not hearing the word of the Lord. If they pleaded
their riches and their own authority; "These," he says, "are fatness
and grossness; ye are at the same time cows and I will regard you as
cows; and I will not deal with you less freely than I do with my
cattle." We now then perceive the Prophet's intention.
    But he goes on with his similitude: for though he here accuses
the chiefs of the kingdom of oppressing the innocent and of
distressing the poor, he yet addresses them in the feminine gender,
"who dwell, he says, on the mountain of Samaria, who oppress the
poor, who consume the needy, who say", &c. He does not think them
worthy of the name of men; and yet they wished to be viewed a class
separate from the common people, as though they were some heroes or
halfgods. The Prophet, by way of contempt, calls them here cows; and
he also withholds from them the name of men. Bashan, we know,
derived its name from fatness; it was a very rich mountain, and
celebrated for its pastures: as the fertility of this mountain was
well known among that people, the Prophet gave the name of the cows
of Bashan to those fat and full men: and it was right that they
should be thus roughly handled, because through fatness, as it is
usually the case, they had contracted dullness; for when men abound
in riches, when they become great in power, they forget themselves
and despise God, for they think themselves beyond the reach of
danger. As then this security makes the rich torpid and inattentive
to any threatenings, and disobedient to God's Word, so that they
regard all counsels superfluous, the Prophet here rebukes them with
greater asperity, and addresses them, by way of reproach, under the
name of cows. And when he says that they were on the mountain of
Samaria, this is still ironical; for they might have made this
objection, that they dwelt in the royal city, and were watchful over
the state of the whole nation, and that the kingdom stood through
their counsels and vigilance: "I see how it is," he says; "Ye are
not on mount Bashan, but on the mount of Samaria; what is the
difference between Samaria and Bashan? For ye are there inebriated
with your pleasures: as cows, when fattened, are burdened with their
own weight, and can hardly draw along their own bodies; so it is
with you, such is your slowness through your gluttony. Samaria then,
though it may seem to be a watch-tower, is yet nothing different
from mount Bashan: for ye are not there so very solicitous (as ye
pretend) for the public safety; but, on the contrary, ye devour
great riches; and as your cupidity is insatiable, the whole
government is nothing else to you than fatness or a rich pasturage."
    But the Prophet chiefly reproves them, because they oppressed
the poor and consumed the needy. Though the rich, no doubt, did
other wrongs, yet as they especially exercised cruelty towards the
miserable, and those who were destitute of every help, this is the
reason why the Prophet here elates expressly that the poor and the
needy were oppressed by the rich: and we also know, that God
promises special aid to the miserable, when they find no help on
earth; for it more excites the mercy of God, when all cruelly rage
against the distressed, when no one extends to them a helping hand
or deigns to aid them.
    He adds, in the last place, what they say to their masters. I
wonder why interpreters render this in the second person, "who say
to your masters;" for the Prophet speaks here in the third person:
they seem therefore designedly to misrepresent the real meaning of
the Prophet; and by masters they understand the king and his
counselors, as though the Prophet here addressed his words to these
chief men of the kingdom. Their rendering then is unsuitable. But
the Prophet calls those masters who were exactors, to whom the poor
were debtors. The meaning is, that the king's counselors and judges
played into the hands of the rich, who plundered the poor; for when
they brought a bribe, they immediately obtained from the judges what
they required. They are indeed to be bought by a price who hunt for
nothing else but a prey.
    They said then to their masters, "Bring and we shall drink";
that is, "Only satiate my cupidity, and I will adjudge to thee what
thou wouldest demand: provided then thou bringest me a bribe, care
not, I will sell all the poor to thee." We now comprehend the design
of the Prophet: for he sets forth here what kind those oppressions
were of which he had been complaining. "Ye then oppress the poor, -
and how? Even by selling them to their creditors, and by selling
them for a price. Hence, when a reward is offered to you, this
satisfies you: Ye inquire nothing about the goodness of the cause,
but instantly condemn the miserable and the innocent, because they
have not the means of redeeming themselves: and the masters to whom
they are debtor; who through your injustice hold them bound to
themselves, pay the price: there is thus a mutual collusion between
you." It now follows -

Amos 4:2
The Lord GOD hath sworn by his holiness, that, lo, the days shall
come upon you, that he will take you away with hooks, and your
posterity with fishhooks.
    
    Here Amos declares what sort of punishment awaited those fat
cattle, who being well fed despised God, and were torpid in their
fatness. He therefore says, that the days were nigh, when they
should be taken away together with all that they had, and all their
posterity, as by a hook of a fisher.
    But to give more effect to his combination, he says that God
"had sworn by his sanctuary". The simple word of God ought indeed to
have been sufficient: but as we do not easily embrace the promises
of God, so also hypocrites and the reprobate are not easily
terrified by his threatening; but they laugh to scorn, or at least
regard as empty, what God's servants declare. It was then necessary
that God should interpose this oath, that secure men might be more
effectually aroused.
    "The Lord then has sworn by his sanctuary". It is singular that
God should swear by his temple rather than by himself: and this
seems strange; for the Lord is wont to swear by himself for this
reason, - because there is none greater by whom he can swear, as the
Apostle says, (Heb. 6: 16.) God then seems to transfer the honor due
to himself to stones and wood; which appears by no means consistent.
But the name of the temple amounts to the same thing as the name of
God. God then says that he had sworn by the sanctuary, because he
himself is invisible, and the temple was his ostensible image, by
which he exhibited himself as visible: it was also a sign and symbol
of religion, where the face of God shone forth. God did not then
divest himself of his own glory, that he might adorn with it the
temple; but he rather accommodated himself here to the rude state of
men; for he could not in himself be known, but in a certain way
appeared to them in the temple. Hence he swore by the temple.
    But the special reason, which interpreters have not pointed
out, ought to be noticed, and that is, that God, by swearing by his
sanctuary, repudiated all the fictitious forms of worship in which
the Israelites gloried, as we have already seen. The meaning is
this, - "God, who is rightly worshipped on mount Zion, and who seeks
to be invoked there only, swears by himself; and though holiness
dwells in himself alone, he yet sets before you the symbol of his
holiness, the sanctuary at Jerusalem: he therefore repudiates all
your forms of worship, and regards your temples as stews or
brothels." We hence see that there is included in this expression a
contrast between the sanctuary, where the Jews rightly and
legitimately worshipped God, and the spurious temples which Jeroboam
built, and also the high places where the Israelites imagined that
they worshipped him. We now then understand what is meant by the
words, that God sware by his sanctuary.
    And he sware by his sanctuary, that the days would come, yea,
were nigh, in which they should be "taken away with hooks", or with
shields. "Tsanah" means in Hebrew to be cold: but "tsinot" denotes
shields in that language, and sometimes fishing-hooks. Some yet
think that the instrument by which the flesh is pulled off is
intended, as though the Prophet still alluded to his former
comparison. But another thing, which is wholly different, seems to
be meant here, and that is, that these fat cows would be drawn out
as a little fish by a hook; for afterwards he mentions a thorn or a
hook again. It is the same as though he had said, "Ye are indeed of
great weight, and ye are very heavy through your fatness; but this
your grossness will not prevent God from quickly taking you away, as
when one draws out a fish by a hook." We see how well these two
different similitudes harmonize: "Ye are now trusting in your own
fatness, but God will draw you forth as if ye were of no weight at
all: ye shall therefore be dragged away by your enemies, not as fat
cows but as small fishes, and a hook will be sufficient, which will
draw you away into remote lands." This change ought to have
seriously affected the Israelites, when they understood that they
would be stripped of their fatness and wealth, and then taken away
as though they were small fishes, that a hook was enough, and that
there would be no need of large wagons. It follows -

Amos 4:3
And ye shall go out at the breaches, every [cow at that which is]
before her; and ye shall cast [them] into the palace, saith the
LORD.
    
    The Prophet expresses now, in different words, what would be
the future calamity of that kingdom; but he still speaks of the rich
and the chief men. For though he threatened also the common people
and the multitude, it was not yet needful expressly to name them,
inasmuch as when God fulminates against the chief men, terror ought
surely to seize also the humbler classes. The Prophet then
designedly directs his discourse still to the judges and the king's
counselors, "Ye shall go forth at the breaches, every one of you".
We see that he continues as yet the same mode of speaking, for he
counts not those pompous and haughty masters as men, but still
represents them as cows, "Every one", that is, every cow, he says,
"shall go forth through the breaches over against it". We know how
strictly the rich observe their own ranks and also how difficult it
is to approach them. But the Prophet says here, that the case with
them would be far different: "There will not be," he says, "a triple
wall or a triple gate to keep away all annoyances, as when ye live
in peace and quietness; but there will be breaches on every side,
and every cow shall go forth through these breaches; yea, "shall
throw herself down from the very palace": neither the pleasures nor
the indulgence, in which ye now live, shall exist among you any
more; no, by no means, but ye will deem it enough to seek safety by
flight. Each of you will therefore rush headlong, as when a cow,
stung by the gadfly or pricked by goads runs madly away." And we
know how impetuous is the flight of cows. So also it will happen to
your says the Prophet. We now then perceive the import of the words.
    Some take "harmonah" for Armenian because the Israelites were
led away into that far country; and others, take it for the mount
Amanus; but for this there is no reason. I do not take its as some
do, as meaning, "In the palace," but, on the contrary, "From the
palace," or, from the high place. Ye shall then throw yourselves
down from the palace; that is, "Ye shall no more care for your pomps
and your pleasures, but will think it enough to escape the danger of
death, even with an impetuosity like that of beasts, as when cows
run on headlong without any thought about their course."
    It was not without reason that he repeated the name of God so
often; for he intended to shake off from the Israelites their
self-complacencies; inasmuch as the king's counselors and the
judges, as we have already stated, were extremely secure and
careless; for they were in a manner stupefied by their own fatness.
It follows -

Amos 4:4-6
4 Come to Bethel, and transgress; at Gilgal multiply transgression;
and bring your sacrifices every morning, [and] your tithes after
three years:
5 And offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, and proclaim
[and] publish the free offerings: for this liketh you, O ye children
of Israel, saith the Lord GOD.
6 And I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities,
and want of bread in all your places: yet have ye not returned unto
me, saith the LORD.

    The Prophet here again pours contempt on the perverse
confidence, in which the Israelites were become hardened. They
thought, indeed, that their worship was fully approved by God, when
they offered Sacrifices in Bethel and Gilgal. But the Prophet here
shows, that the more sedulously they labored in performing sacred
things, the more grievously they offended God, and the heavier
judgment they gained for themselves. "What do you obtain by wearying
yourselves, when ye so strictly offer sacrifices, and omit nothing
that is prescribed in the law of God? Only this - that you provoke
God's wrath more and more." But he condemns not the Israelites for
thinking that they rendered a compensation, as hypocrites were wont
to think, and were on this account often reproved by the Prophets;
but he denounces their modes of worship as vicious and false, and
abominable before God. The Prophets reprobated sacrifices for two
reasons; - first, because hypocrites brought them before God as a
compensation, that they might escape the punishment they deserved,
as though they paid God what they owed. Thus at Jerusalem, in the
very temple, they profaned the name of God; they offered sacrifices
according to what the law prescribed, but disregarded the true and
legitimate end; for they thought that God was pacified by the blood
of beasts, by incense, and other external rites: it was therefore a
preposterous abuse. Hence the Prophets often reproved them, inasmuch
as they obtruded their sacrifices on God as a compensation, as
though they were real expiations for cleansing away sins: this, as
the Prophets declared, was extremely puerile and foolish. But,
secondly, Amos now goes much farther; for he blames not here the
Israelites for thinking that they discharged their duty to God by
external rites, but denounces all their worship as degenerate and
perverted, for they called on God in places where he had not
commanded: God designed one altar only for his people, and there he
wished sacrifices to be offered to him; but the Israelites at their
own will had built altars at Bethel and Gilgal. Hence the Prophet
declares that all their profane modes of worship were nothing but
abominations, however much the Israelites confided in them as their
safety.
    This is the reason why he now says "Go ye to Bethel". It is the
language of indignation; God indeed speaks ironically, and at the
same time manifests his high displeasure, as though he had said,
that they were wholly intractable, and could not be restrained by
any corrections, as we say in French, Fai du pis que to pouvras. So
also God speaks in the 20th chapter of Ezekiel, 'Go, sacrifice to
your idols.' When he saw the people running headlong with so much
pertinacity into idolatry and superstitions, he said, "Go;" as
though he intended to inflame their minds. It is indeed certain,
that God does not stimulate sinners; but he thus manifests his
extreme indignation. After having tried to restrain men, and seeing
their ungovernable madness, he then says, "Go;" as though he said,
"Ye are wholly irreclaimable; I effect nothing by my good advice;
hear, then, the devil, who will lead you where you are inclined to
go: Go then to Bethel, and there transgress; go to Gilgal, and
transgress there again; heap sins on sins."
    But how did they transgress at Bethel? Even by worshipping God.
We here see how little the pretence of good intention avails with
God, which hypocrites ever bring forward. They imagine that,
provided their purpose is to worship God, what they do cannot be
disapproved: thus they wanton in their own inventions, and think
that God obtains his due, so that he cannot complain. But the
Prophet declares all their worship to be nothing else than
abomination and execrable wickedness, though the Israelites,
trusting in it, thought themselves safe. "Add, then, to transgress
in Gilgal; and offer your sacrifices in the morning; be thus
diligent, that nothing may be objected to you, as to the outward
form."
    "After three years", that is, in the third year, "bring also
your tenths"; for thus it was commanded, as we read in Deut. 14.
Though, then, the Israelites worshipped God apparently in the
strictest manner, yet Amos declares that the whole was vain and of
no worth, yea, abominable before God, and that the more they wearied
themselves, the more they kindled the wrath of God against
themselves. And to the same purpose is the next verse. "And burn
incense with the leaven of thank offering". He speaks of
peace-offerings; sacrifices of thanksgiving were wont to be offered
with leaven; but with other sacrifices they presented cakes and
unleavened bread. It was lawful in peace-offerings to offer leaven.
However sedulous, then, the Israelites were in performing these
rites, the Prophet intimates that they were in no way approved by
God inasmuch as they had departed from the pure command of the law.
Some take leaven in a bad sense, as meaning a vicious and impure
sacrifice, which the law required to be free from leaven; but this
view seems not suitable here; for nothing is here condemned in the
Israelites, but that they had departed from what the law prescribed,
that they had presumptuously changed the place of the temple, and
also raised up a new priesthood. They were in other things careful
and diligent enough; but this defection was the chief abomination.
It could not then be, that God would approve of deprivations; for
obedience, as it is said elsewhere, is of more account before him
than all sacrifices, (1 Sam. 15: 22.) Proclaim, he says, "nedavot",
voluntary oblations. What he means is, "Though ye not only offer
sacrifices morning and evenings as it has been commanded you, though
ye not only present other sacrifices on festivals, but also add
voluntary oblations to any extent, yet nothing pleases me."
    "Bring forth then, and proclaim voluntary offerings"; that is,
"Appoint solemn assemblies with great pomp; yet this would be
nothing else than to add sin to sin: ye are acting wickedly for this
reason, - because the very beginning is impious."
    But the last part of the verse must be noticed, "For so it has
pleased you, O children of Israel, saith the Lord Jehovah". By
saying that the Israelites loved to do these things, he reprobates
their presumption in devising at their own will new modes of
worship; as though he said, "I require no sacrifices from you except
those offered at Jerusalem; but ye offer them to me in a profane
place. Regard then your sacrifices as offered to yourselves, and not
to me." We indeed know how hypocrites ever make God a debtor to
themselves; when they undertake any labour in their frivolous
ceremonies, they think that God is bound to them. But God denies
that this work was done for him, for he had not enjoined it in his
law. "It has thus pleased you," he says, "Vous faites cela pour
votre plaisir et bien mettez le sur vos comptes." We then see what
Amos meant here by saying, 'It has so pleased you, O children of
Israel:' it is, as if he had said, "Ye ought to have consulted me,
and simply to have obeyed my word, to have regarded what pleased me,
what I have commanded; but ye have despised my word, neglected my
law, and followed what pleased yourselves, and proceeded from your
own fancies. Since, then, your own will is your law, seek a
recompense from yourselves, for I allow none of these things. What I
require is implicit submission, I look for nothing else but
obedience to my law; as ye render not this but according to your own
will, it is no worship of my name."
    
Prayer.
    
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou wouldest have our life to be
formed by the rule of thy law, and hast revealed in it what pleaseth
thee, that we may not wander in uncertainty but render thee
obedience, - O grant, that we may wholly submit ourselves to thee,
and not only devote our life and all our labors to thee, but also
offer to thee as a sacrifice our understanding and whatever prudence
and reason we may possess, so that by spiritually serving thee, we
may really glorify thy name, through Christ our Lord. Amen
    

Lecture Fifty-sixth.
    
    "But I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and want
of bread in all your borders; and ye turned not to me, saith
Jehovah". God here expostulates with the people on account of their
incurable perverseness; for he had tried to restore them to the
right way, not only by his word, but also by heavy punishments; but
he effected nothing. This hardness doubled the guilt of that people,
as they could not be subdued by God's chastisements.
    The Prophet now says, that the people had been chastised with
famine, "I gave them, he says, cleanness of teeth". It is a
figurative expression, by which Amos means want, and he explains it
himself by "want of bread". The whole country then labored under
want and deficiency of provisions, though the land, as it is well
known, was very fruitful. Now since the end of punishment is to turn
men to God and his service, it is evident, when no fruit follows,
that the mind is hardened in evil. Hence the Prophet shows here,
that the Israelites were not only guilty, but had also
pertinaciously resisted God, for their vices could be corrected by
no punishment. We have just mentioned famine, another kind of
punishment follows -

Amos 4:7
And also I have withholden the rain from you, when [there were] yet
three months to the harvest: and I caused it to rain upon one city,
and caused it not to rain upon another city: one piece was rained
upon, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered.
    
    I have said that another kind of punishment is here recorded by
the Prophet; it is not, however, wholly different: for whence comes
the want we have noticed, except through drought? For when God
intends to deprive men of support, he shuts up heaven and makes it
iron, so that it hears not the earth, according to what we have
noticed elsewhere. Yet these words of the Prophet are not
superfluous; for God would have the punishment he inflicts on men to
be more attentively considered. When men are reduced to want, they
will indeed acknowledge it to be the curse of God, except they be
very stupid; but when a drought precedes, when the earth disappoints
its cultivators, and then a want of food follows, more time is given
to men to think of God's displeasure. This is the reason why the
Prophet now distinctly speaks of rain being withheld, after having
said that the people had been before visited with a deficiency of
provisions; as though he said "Ye ought to have returned, at least
after a long course of time, to a sound mind. If God had been
offended with you only for one day, and had given tokens of his
displeasure, the shortness of time might have been some excuse for
you: but as the earth had become dry; as God had restrained rain,
and as hence sterility followed, and afterwards there came want, how
great was your stupidity not to attend to so many and so successive
tokens of God's wrath?" We now perceive why the Prophet here
connects drought with want of food, the cause with the effect: it
was, that the stupidity of the people might hence be more evident.
    But he says that God had "withheld rain from them, when three
months still remained to the harvest". When it rains not for a whole
month, the earth becomes dry, and men become anxious, for it is an
ill omen: but when two months pass without rain, men begin to be
filled with apprehension and even dread; but if continual dryness
lasts to the end of the third month, it is a sign of some great
evil. The Prophet, then, here shows that the Israelites had not been
in an ordinary way chastised, and that they were very stupid, as
they did not, during the whole three months, apply their minds to
consider their sins, though God urged them, and though his wrath had
been manifested for so long a time. We now then see that the
hardness of the people is amplified by the consideration of time,
inasmuch as they were not awakened by a sign so portentous, "When
there were yet three months, he says, to the harvests I withheld
rain from you".
    Another circumstance follows, "God rained on one city, on
another he did not rain; one part was watered, and no drop of rain
fell on another". This difference could not be ascribed to chance:
except men resolved to be willfully mad, and to reject all reason,
they must surely have been constrained to confess these to have been
manifest signs of God's wrath. How came it, that one place was
rained upon, and another remained dry? that two neighboring cities
were treated so differently? Whence was this, except that God
appeared angry from heaven? The Prophet then does here again condemn
the obstinacy of the people: they did not see in this difference the
wrath of God, which was yet so very conspicuous. The import of the
whole is, that God shows that he had to do with a people past
recovery; for they were refractory and obstinate in their
wickedness, and could bear the application of no remedy. It follows
-

Amos 4:8
So two [or] three cities wandered unto one city, to drink water; but
they were not satisfied: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the
LORD.
    
    Marking the difference, the Prophet relates, that two or three
cities had come to one, to seek drink, and that they were not
satisfied, because the waters failed on account of so large a
number: for though the fountains could have supplied the
inhabitants, yet when such a multitude flowed from every quarter,
the very fountains became exhausted. The Prophet thus aggravates the
punishment brought by God on the Israelites; for so great was the
thirst, that whole cities had recourse to fountains, where they
heard that there was any water. It was indeed an unusual thing for
inhabitants to leave their own city and to run to another to seek
water, like wild beasts who, when satiated with prey, run far for
water: but it is an unwonted thing for men to undertake a long
journey for the sake of finding drink: for they dig wells for
themselves, and seek water by their own industry, when rivers do not
flow, or when fountains do not supply them with drink. When
therefore men are forced to leave their own homes and to seek water
at a distance, and when they exhaust the fountains, it is a portend
which ought to be observed.
    But how was it that the Israelites took no notice of God's
hand, which was then as it were visible? Hence then, as they
repented not, their obstinate blindness became quite evident. They
were no doubt terrified with fear and harassed by grief; but all
this produced no effect, for they continued in their sins, took
delight in their own superstitions, and pursued the same life as
before. Since then they divested not themselves of their own
character, nor ceased to provoke continually the wrath of God, their
hopeless and incorrigible obstinacy is here manifestly proved. This
was the Prophet's design. It follows -

Amos 4:9
I have smitten you with blasting and mildew: when your gardens and
your vineyards and your fig trees and your olive trees increased,
the palmerworm devoured [them]: yet have ye not returned unto me,
saith the LORD.
    
    Though one kind of punishment may not convince men, they are
yet thereby proved with sufficient clearness to be guilty before
God. But when in various ways he urges them, and after having tried
in vain to correct them in one way, he has recourse to another, and
still effects nothing, it hence more fully appears that they, who
are thus ever unmoved, and remain stupid whatever means God may
adopt to lead them to repentance, are altogether past recovery. This
is the drift of what the Prophet now adds: he says that they had
"been smitten by the east wind". He shows that want of food does not
always proceed from one cause; for men become hardened when they
feel only one evil: as the case is when a country labors under a
drought, it will be thought to be as it were its fate. But when God
chastises men in various ways, they ought then no doubt to be
touched and really affected: when, on the contrary, they pass by all
punishments with their eyes closed, it is certain, that they are
wholly obstinate and so fascinated by the devil, that they feel
nothing and discern nothing. This is the reason why the Prophet
records the various punishments which had been already inflicted on
the people.
    Hence he says now, that they had been smitten by the east wind,
and "by the mildew". What mischief the mildew does to the standing
corn, we know; when the sun rises after a cold rain, it burns out
its substance, so that the ears grow yellow, and rottenness follows.
God then says, that the standing corn of the people had been
destroyed by this blasting, after dryness had already prevailed
though not through the whole land in an equal degree; for God rained
on one part, while a neighboring region was parched through want of
rain: the Prophet having stated this, now mentions also the mildew.
    He says further, that the fig-trees and vines had been
consumed, that the gardens had been destroyed, and that the olive
trees had been devoured by chafers or palmer worms. Since then the
Israelites had been in so many ways warned, was it not a strange and
monstrous blindness, that being affrighted they could bear these
chastisements of God, and be not moved to return to the right way?
If the first chastisement had no effect, if the second also had been
without fruit, they ought surely at last to have repented; but as
they proceeded in their usual course, and continued like themselves
in that contumacy of which we have spoken, what any more remained
for them, but to be wholly destroyed as those who had trifled with
God? We now then understand what the Prophet means.
    Moreover, this passage teaches, as other similar passages do,
that seasons vary not by chance; that now drought prevails, and then
continual rains destroy the fruits of the earth, that now chafers
are produced, and then that heaven is filled with various
infections, - that these things happen not by chance, is what this
passage clearly shows: but that they are so many tokens of God's
wrath, set; before our eyes. God indeed does not govern the world,
according to what profane men think, as though he gave uncontrolled
license both in heaven and earth; but he now withholds rain, then he
pours it down in profusion; he now burns the corn with heat, then he
temperates the air; he now shows himself kind to men, then he shows
himself angry with them. Let us then learn to refer the whole order
of nature to the special providence of God. I mention his special
providence, lest we should dream only of some general operation, as
ungodly men do: but let us know that God would have himself to be
seen in daily events, so that the tokens of his love may make us to
rejoice, and also that the tokens of his wrath may humble us, to the
end that we may repent. Let this then be learnt from the present
words of the Prophet.
    Amos further teaches us, that wind and rain, hail and droughts
heat and cold, are arms or weapons by which God executes vengeance
on account of our sins. Whenever God then intends to inflict
punishment on us, he puts on his armour, that is, he sends either
rain, or wind, or drought, or heat, or hail. Since it is so, let us
not think that either rain or heat is fortuitous, or that they
depend on the situation of the stars as ungodly men imagine. Let us
therefore know, that all nature so obeys God's command, that when
rain falls seasonably, it is a token of his love towards us, and
that when it is unseasonable, it is a proof of his displeasure. It
is meet to think the same of heat and of cold, and of all other
things. Let us now go on with the words of the Prophet -

Amos 4:10
I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt: your
young men have I slain with the sword, and have taken away your
horses; and I have made the stink of your camps to come up unto your
nostrils: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD.
    
    God now expostulates with the people, because their
perverseness had not been subdued even by additional punishments;
for he had in vain exhorted and stimulated them to repentance. He
says, that they had been smitten with pestilence. The Prophet has
hitherto spoken only of the sterility of the land, and of the fruit
being destroyed by infections; he has hitherto mentioned want only
with its causes; this only has been stated: but now he adds that the
people had been afflicted with pestilence, and also with war, and
that they had still persevered in their wickedness. Whatever
measures then God had adopted to correct the vices of the people,
the Prophet now complains and deplores, that they all had been tried
in vain. But so many upbraidings are mentioned, that God might show
that there was no more any hope of pardon, inasmuch as they thus
continued to be untractable and perverse.
    He then says that he had "sent pestilence according to the
manner of Egypt. "Derech" means a way, but is taken for mode or
manners as the 10th chapter of Isaiah 'I will smite him according to
the manner of Egypt,' says God, speaking of Sennacherib, as though
he said, "Ye know how formerly I checked the fury of Pharaoh; I will
now put on the same armour, that I may drive far from you your
energy Sennacherib." But the Prophet says here, that God had
exercised towards the Israelites the same extreme rigor which he had
used towards the Egyptians; as though he said, "I have been forced
by your obstinacy to turn my power against you: ye know how Egypt
was formerly smitten by me from kindness to your fathers; I then
showed how dear to me was your preservation, by putting forth my
strength to destroy the Egyptians: how is it that I now turn my
weapons against you for your destruction? I have been indeed always
ready to oppose your enemies, and kindly to cherish you in my
paternal bosom. As then ye are become to me like the Egyptians, how
is this and whence this change, except that ye have constrained me
by your irreclaimable wickedness?"
    We now then see why the Prophet speaks here expressly of the
Egyptians. He intimates that God could not show favor to the
Israelites, which he would have continued to show, had they not
closed the door against it; as though he said, "I had chosen you
from other nations; but now I chastise you, not as I do the
uncircumcised Gentiles, but I avowedly carry on war with you, as
though ye were Egyptians." We see how much it serves for
amplification, when Amos compares the Israelites to the Egyptians,
as though he had said that they, by their perverse wickedness, had
extinguished all God's favor, so that the memory of their gratuitous
adoption was of no more avail to them. I have therefore sent among
you pestilence after the manner of Egypt.
    And he adds, "I slew with the sword your strong" men. It was a
different kind of punishment, that all the strong had been slain,
that their horses had been led into captivity, and that, finally,
the foetor of dead bodies had ascended to suffocate them. These were
certainly unusual tokens of God's wrath. As the people had not
repented, it became now again quite evident, that their diseases
were not healable; for God had effected nothing by the application
of so many remedies. These different kinds of punishments ought to
be carefully noticed, because the Lord has collected them together,
as so many arguments to prove the contumacy of the people.
    By saying that the "foetor of camps had ascended to their
nostrils", it was the same as if he had said, "There has been no
need of external force; though no enemy had been hostile to you, ye
have yet been suffocated by your own foetor; for this came up from
your own camps into your nostrils, and deprived you of life. Since
God then had raised up this intestine putridity, ought you not to
have been at length seriously affected, and to have returned to a
right mind? Inasmuch then as no fruit followed, who does not see,
that you have been in vain chastised, and that what alone remains
for you is utter destruction? As God has hitherto stimulated you in
vain by punishments, were he to proceed, he would lose all his
labour. Since then God has hitherto to no purpose visited you with
his scourges, there is no reason why he should chastise you more
moderately: you must now then be utterly destroyed." This is the
meaning: and he further adds -

Amos 4:11
I have overthrown [some] of you, as God overthrew Sodom and
Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning: yet
have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD.
    
    Amos proceeds further, and says, that God had used a severity
towards his chosen people similar to that which formerly he showed
towards Sodom and Gomorrah. That, we know, was a memorable evidence
of God's wraths which ought to have filled all ages with dread, as
it ought also at this day: and Scripture, whenever it graphically
paints the wrath of God, sets Sodom and Gomorrah before our eyes. It
was indeed a dreadful judgment, when God destroyed those cities with
fire from heaven, when they were consumed, and when the earth,
cleaving asunder, swallowed up the five cities. But he says that
nearly the same ruin had taken place among the people of Israel,
only that a few escaped, as when any one snatches a brand from the
burning; for the second clause of the verse ought no doubt to be
taken as a modification; for had Amos only said, that they had been
overthrown as Sodom and Gomorrah, he would have said too much. The
Prophet then corrects or modifies his expression by saying, that a
few had remained, as when one snatches a brand from the burning. But
in the meantime, they ought to have been at least moved by
punishments so grievous and dreadful, since God had manifested his
displeasure to them, as he did formerly to Sodom and Gomorrah.
    History seems, at the same time, to militate against this
narrative of Amos; for he prophesied under Jeroboam the second, the
son of Joash; and the state of the people was then prosperous, as
sacred history records. How then could it be, that the Israelites
had been destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah? This difficulty may be
easily solved, if we attend to what sacred history relates; for it
says that God had pity on the Israelites, because all had been
before consumed, the free man as well as the captive, (2 Kings 14:
25, 26.) When, therefore, there was so deplorable a devastation
among the people, it was God's purpose to give them some relief for
a time. Hence he made king Jeroboam successful, so that he recovered
many cities; and the people flourished again: but it was a short
prosperity. Now Amos reminds them of what they had suffered, and of
the various means by which God had stimulated them to repentance
though they proved wholly untamable.
    Then these two things are in no way inconsistent, - that the
Israelites had been consumed before God spared them under Jeroboam,
- and that they had yet been for a time relieved from those
calamities, which proved ruinous both to the captive and to the
free, as it is expressly declared. We must, at the same time,
remember, that there was some residue among the people; for it was
God's design to show mercy on account of his covenant. The people
were indeed worthy of complete destruction; but it was God's will
that some remnant should continue, lest any one should think that he
had forgotten his covenant. We hence see why God had preserved some;
it was, that he might contend with the wickedness of the people, and
show that his covenant was not wholly void. So the Lord observed a
middle course, that he might not spare hypocrites, and that he might
not abolish his covenant; for it was necessary for that to stand
perpetually, however ungodly and perfidious the Israelites may have
been. The Prophet then shows, that God had been faithful even in
this case, and constantly kept his covenant, though all the
Israelites had fallen away from him. He at length concludes -

Amos 4:12,13
Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: [and] because I will
do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.
For, lo, he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and
declareth unto man what [is] his thought, that maketh the morning
darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, The LORD,
The God of hosts, [is] his name.
    
    Amos here declares, in the person of God, that the people in
vain hoped for pardon, or for a modification, or an abatement, or an
end to their punishment; for God had in vain made the attempt, by
many scourges and chastisements, to subdue their extreme arrogance:
therefore, he says, "thus will I do to you". What does this particle
"koh", thus, mean? Some think that God here denounces on the
Israelites the punishments they had before experienced: but the
Prophet, I doubt not, means something much more grievous. He now
removes the exception which he lately mentioned as though be had
said, that God would execute extreme punishment on this reprobate
people without any mitigation. "This will I do to thee, Israel:"
"Thou hast already perceived with how many things I armed myself to
take vengeance on the despisers of my law; I will now deal more
severely with thee, for thy obstinacy compels me. Since, then, I
have hitherto produced no effect on you, I will now bring the last
punishment: for remedies cannot be applied to men past recovery."
"Thus", then, he says, "will I do to thee Israel."
    "And because I will do this to thee", &c. "'Ekev" means often a
reward or an end: this place may then be thus rendered: 'I will at
length surely do this to you;' but the sense the most suitable seems
to be this, Because I will this do to you, prepare to meet thy God.
The passage may be explained in two ways: either as an ironical
sentence, or as a simple and serious exhortation to repentance. If
we take it ironically, the sense will be of this kind, "Come, now,
meet me with all your obstinacy, and with whatever may serve you;
will you be able to escape my vengeance by setting up yourselves
against me, as you have hitherto done?" And certainly the Prophet,
in denouncing final ruin on the people, seems here as though he
wished designedly to touch them to the quick, when he says, "Meet
now thy God and prepare thyself:" that is, "Gather all thy strength,
and thy forces, and thy auxiliaries; try what all this will avail
thee." But as in the next chapter, the Prophet exhorts again the
Israelites to repentance, and sets before them the hope of favor,
this place may be taken in another sense, as though he said, "Since
thou seest thyself guilty, and also as thou seest that thou art
seeking subterfuges in vain, being not able by any means to elude
the hand of thy judge, then see at last, that thou meet thy God,
that thou mayest anticipate the final ruin which is impending." The
Prophets, we indeed know, after having threatened destruction to the
chosen people, ever moderate the asperity of their doctrine, as
there were at all times some remnant seed, though hidden. And
similar passages we have seen both in Joel and in Hosea. It is not,
therefore, improper to explain the words of Amos in this sense, -
that though the people were almost past hope, he yet exhorted them
to anticipate God's wrath. Prepare then thyself to meet thy God, as
though he said, "However worthy thou art of being destroyed and
though the Lord seems to have closed up the door of mercy, and
despair meets thee on every side, thou can't yet mitigate God's
wrath, provided thou prepares to meet him."
    But this preparation includes real renovation of the heart: it
then takes place, when men are displeased with themselves, when with
a changed mind they submit to God, and humbly pray for forgiveness.
There is then an important meaning in the Prophet's words, Prepare
thyself. With regard to meeting God, we know what Paul says in 1
Cor. 9:, 'If we judge ourselves, we shall not be judged by the
Lord.' How comes it, then, that God deals severely with us, except
that we spare ourselves? Hence this indulgence, with which we
flatter ourselves, provokes God's wrath against us. We cannot then
meet God, except we become our own judges, and condemn our sins and
feel real sorrow. We now see what the Prophet means, if we regard
the passage as not spoken ironically.
    But that he might rouse careless men more effectually, he then
magnificently extols the power of God; and that he might produce
more reverence and fear in men, especially the hardened and the
refractory, he adorns his name with many commendations. As it was
difficult to turn the headstrong, the Prophet accumulates many
titles, to move the people, that they might entertain reverence for
God. "God," he says, "has formed the mountains, and created the
spirit," and further, "he knoweth hearts, and men themselves
understand not what they think of, except as far as God sets before
them their thoughts; God maketh the morning and the darkness, and
walketh in the high places of the earth; and his name is, Jehovah,
God of hosts." Why were all these encomiums added, but that the
hearts of men might be touched, who were before void of thought and
sunk in blind stupidity? We now understand the Prophet's object. But
what remains to be said on the words will be added in tomorrow's
lecture.
    
Prayer.
    
Grant, Almighty God, that since by thy word thou kindly invites us
to thyself, we may not turn deaf ears to thee, but anticipate thy
rod and scourges; and that when, for the stupidity and
thoughtlessness by which we have become inebriated, thou addest
those punishments by which thou sharply urgest us to repent, - O
grant, that we may not continue wholly intractable, but at length
turn our hearts to thy service and submit ourselves to the yoke of
thy word, and that we may be so instructed by the punishments, which
thou hast inflicted on us and still inflictest, that we may truly
and from the heart turn to thee, and offer ourselves to thee as a
sacrifice, that thou mayest govern us according to thy will, and so
rule all our affections by thy Spirit, that we may through the whole
of our life strive to glorify thy name in Christ Jesus, thy Son our
Lord. Amen.


Lecture Fifty-seventh.
    
    We have explained the last verse of the fourth chapter, except
that there remains something to be said of the glorious
representation given of God by the Prophet. He says first, that he
had formed the mountains then that he had "created the spirits",
afterwards that he "declares to man what is his thoughts, makes the
morning and the darkness, and walks on the high places of the
earth". Such an accumulation of words might seem superfluous, only
this main thing must be borne in mind, that it was necessary for
men, whose minds were exceedingly torpid to be aroused that they
might seriously consider what we have seen had been denounced on
them. Hence the Prophet sought to shake off from the Israelites
their thoughtlessness, by setting God before them in his greatness;
for when his name only is announced, he is wholly neglected by the
greatest part of men. It was therefore necessary that something
should be added, that they who were asleep might be awakened, and
understand how great and how fearful the power of God is. This is
the design of all that we read here.
    The word "ruach" is interpreted in two ways. Some refer it to
the wind, and others to the soul of man. If we take it for the wind,
it will join suitably with the creation of mountains, for the winds
emerge from them on account of their cavity. If you understand it of
man's soul, it will agree with the following clause. It appears to
me more probable that the Prophet speaks of man's soul; though one
may possibly choose to connect both, so that there is an allusion to
wind, and that yet Amos, about to speak of thought, first mentions
the spirit.
    But what the Prophet says, that God announces to men what their
thought is - this is done in various ways. We indeed know that the
end of teaching is, that men may confess their guilt, who before
flattered themselves; we know also that the word of God is like a
two-edged sword, which penetrates into the bones and marrow, and
distinguishes between thoughts and feelings, (Heb. 4: 12.) God then
thus draws men out of their recesses into the light; and he also
convinces them without the word; for we know how powerful are the
secret movements of the Spirit. But the Prophet meant only here,
that the Israelites had to do with God, who is the searcher of
hearts, and from whom nothing is hid, however concealed it may be.
Each one is to himself the best witness of his own thoughts; but the
Prophet ascribes to God a higher degree, for he understands whatever
any one conceives in his mind, better than he who seems to have all
his own thoughts well understood. Since men therefore craftily hide
themselves, the Prophet here reminds them that they cannot succeed,
for God understands what they inwardly think better than they
themselves. We now then perceive what he substantially means.
    Some explain the words, that God makes the morning darkness, as
if Amos had said, that he converts light into darkness; but we ought
rather to consider a copulative to be understood; 'for he here
declares the power of God, not only as displayed in once creating
the world, but also in preserving the order of nature, and in
minutely regulating the changes of times and seasons. Let us now
proceed to the fifth chapter.
    
    

Chapter 5.

Amos 5:1
Hear ye this word which I take up against you, [even] a lamentation,
O house of Israel.
    
    Some render the verse thus, "Hear ye this word, because upon
you, or for you, I raise a lamentation:" but we shall hereafter
speak more at large as to the proper rendering. Let us see what the
subject is. The Prophet here denounces on the Israelites the
punishment they had deserved; and yet they did not think that it was
nigh; and they ferociously despised, I have no doubt, the
denunciation itself, because no chance had as yet taken place, which
might have pointed out such a destruction. Hence the Prophet and his
threatenings were both despised.
    He however threatens them here in severe terms with the
judgment of God, which they feared not: and this is the reason why
he says, "Hear ye". It was not, indeed, without reason that he thus
began and intimated that they greatly flattered themselves, nay,
that they stopped their ears against wholesome counsels: the
admonition would have been otherwise superfluous. The Prophet then
indirectly reproves that supine indifference in which the Israelites
indulged themselves.
    But with regard to the words, some, as I have before mentioned,
refer this lamentation to Amos himself, as though he had said, that
he lamented the state of the people, finding that they were so
stupid, and did not perceive how dreadful the wrath of God is.
Since, then, they thus flattered themselves in their sins, those
interpreters think that the Prophet here assumes the character of a
mourner for that irreclaimable people. "Hear, he says, this word"
even because I lament over you. For the more refractory the people
were, the more touched with grief the prophet no doubt was: for he
saw how horrible the judgment of God was, which was nigh them, on
account of their stubbornness. No wonder then that the Prophet says
here, that he undertook or raised lamentation for the people; and
this mode of speaking is common in Scripture.
    But yet I rather think that another sense is more suitable to
this place, which becomes evident by putting in an exegetic
particle, "Hear ye then this word which I raise upon you", even "a
lamentation", &c. The word "masa'", rendered burden, is derived from
the verb "nasa'", which means to raise up: and there is a striking
allusion to the subject treated of here. For the Prophet does not
here simply teach the people, nor comfort them, nor does he only
warn them, but he denounces on them the last punishment. We hence
see the import of the expression, to raise up a word; it was the
same as though he said, "I lay on you this prophecy:" for a burden
is laid on the shoulders of men when God's wrath is denounced.
    It afterwards follows, Even "a lamentations O house of Israel";
which means, "I raise upon you a word, which will constrain you to
mourn and lament: though now ye are so refractory against God, that
ye spurn all warnings, and reject all threatening; yet this word
shall at last prove mournful to you." This seems to be the genuine
sense of the Prophet: in the first place, he reproves the stupidity
of the people of Israel, by demanding a hearing; then he reproves
their contempt of God in despising all threatenings; and he shows
also that this prophecy would prove mournful to them for having so
long trifled with God, "The lament of the house of Israel shall be
this word, which I now raise up upon you." it follows -

Amos 5:2
The virgin of Israel is fallen; she shall no more rise: she is
forsaken upon her land; [there is] none to raise her up.
    
    This was substantially the vengeance which was now nigh the
Israelites, though they rested securely, and even scorned all the
threatening of God. The virgin of Israel, he says, has fallen.
Expounders have too refinedly explained the word virgin; for they
think that the people of Israel are here called a virgin, because
God had espoused them to himself, and that though they ought to have
observed spiritual chastity towards God, they yet abandoned
themselves to all kinds of pollutions: but a virgin, we know, is a
title given for the most part by the Prophets to this or that people
on account of their delicacies; for Babylon, no less than Samaria or
the people of Israel, is called a virgin. Certainly this refined
interpretation cannot be applied to Babylon, to Egypt, to Tyre, and
to other places. I have therefore no doubt but the Prophet here
arraigns the Israelites, because they, relying on their strength,
indulged themselves. They were quiet in their own retreats, and when
all kinds of blessings abounded, they lived daintily and
sumptuously. As then they were indulging themselves in such
pleasures he calls them a virgin. "The virgin of Israel then has
fallen, and shall no more rise again".
    A condition may be here included, as an exhortation to
repentance immediately follows: we may then fitly regard this as
being understood, "except they timely repent:" otherwise the
Israelites must have fallen without hope of restoration. But we may
also refer this to the body of the people: fallen then had the
virgin of Israel, not so however that they were all destroyed, as we
shall hereafter see; for the Prophet says that the tenth part would
remain: but this is rightly said of the people generally; for we
know that the kingdom had so fallen, that it never afterwards did
rise. A remnant of the tribe of Judah did indeed return to
Jerusalem; but the Israelites are at this day dispersed though
various parts of the world; yea, they are hid either in the
mountains of Armenia, or in other regions of the East. Since then
what the Prophet here denounces has been really fulfilled as to the
whole kingdom, we may take the place without supposing any thing
understood, "Fallen has the virgin of Israel." For as God showed
mercy when the people as a body were destroyed, that some remained,
is what does not militate with the prophecy, that the whole body had
fallen. Fallen then has the virgin of Israel, nor will she any more
rise again; that is, the kingdom shall not by way of recovery be
restored; and this, we know, has never taken place.
    "Forsaken is she, he says, on her own land, and there is none
to raise her up"; which means, that she will continue fallen: though
she may remain in her own place, she will not yet recover what she
had lost. We now understand the Prophet's meaning; and, at the same
time, we see that that people had so fallen, as never to rise again,
as it has been stated, into a kingdom. Let us now proceed -

Amos 5:3
For thus saith the Lord GOD; The city that went out [by] a thousand
shall leave an hundred, and that which went forth [by] an hundred
shall leave ten, to the house of Israel.
    
    The Prophet now expresses more clearly what he had before said,
- that the kingdom would perish and yet so that the Lord would
preserve some remnants. Then as to the body of the people, Israel
had fallen; but as to a few remnants they were saved; but they were
a small numbers such as the Prophet mentions. We hence see that some
hope of mercy was given to God's chosen people, and that in the
meantime destruction was denounced on the whole nation. We have
already seen that their wickedness was past hope; it was therefore
necessary to announce to them the sentence of final ruin; but it was
so done, as not to drive to despair the faithful few, who remained
hid among the multitude.
    "The city then, from which a thousand went forth, shall have a
hundred remaining; and the city from which went forth a hundred,
shall have ten". Armies were wont formerly to be decimated, when any
sedition had been made: but God threatens the Israelites here with a
much heavier judgment, that only the tenth part would be saved from
ruin. We now then perceive the design of the Prophet. Now this could
not alleviate the grief of the people; but the hypocrites were more
exasperated, on hearing that few would be saved, and that all hope
of deliverance was cut off from them. When, therefore, they saw that
God dealt with them with so much severity, envy increased their
griefs and more embittered their minds; and this was what the
Prophet designed; for it was of no use to apply any solace to the
despisers of God: but as God knew that there were some seed
remaining among the people, he intended to provide for the
miserable, who would have been a hundred times swallowed up with
grief, had no mitigation been offered them. The Prophet then directs
his discourse to the few, when he says, "In the city from which a
thousand had gone forth there will be a hundred; and in that from
which a hundred went forth, ten will remain alive." It now follows -

Amos 5
4 For thus saith the LORD unto the house of Israel, Seek ye me, and
ye shall live:
5 But seek not Bethel, nor enter into Gilgal, and pass not to
Beersheba: for Gilgal shall surely go into captivity, and Bethel
shall come to nought.
6 Seek the LORD, and ye shall live; lest he break out like fire in
the house of Joseph, and devour [it], and [there be] none to quench
[it] in Bethel.
    
    Amos here again exhorts the Israelites to repentance; and it
was an address common to all, though the greater part, as we have
said, were altogether past recovery; but it was necessary, as long
as they continued a chosen people, to call them to repentance; for
they had not been as yet abdicated. We further know, that the
Prophets preached in order to invite some to God, and to render
others inexcusable. With regard to the end and design of public
teaching, it is, that all should in common be called: but God's
purpose is different; for he intends, according to his own secret
counsel, to draw to himself the elect, and he designs to take away
all excuse from the reprobate, that their obstinacy may be more and
more apparent. We must further bear in mind, that while the people
of Israel continued, the doctrine of repentance and faith was
preserved among them; and the reason was that to which I have
alluded, because they remained as yet in the fold of God. It is no
wonder then that the Prophet gives again to the Israelites the hope
of pardon, provided they repented.
    "Thus saith Jehovah to the house of Israel, Seek me, and ye
shall live". This sentence has two clauses. In saying, Seek me, the
Prophet exhorts the Israelites to return to a sane mind: and then he
offers them the mercy of God, if only they sought from the heart to
reconcile themselves to him. We have elsewhere said that men cannot
be led to repentance, unless they believe that God will be
propitious to them; for all who think him to be implacable, ever
flee away from him, and dread the mention of his name. Hence, were
any one through his whole life to proclaim repentance, he could
effect nothing, except he were to connect with this the doctrine of
faith, that is, except he were to show that God is ready to give
pardon, if men only repent from the heart. These two parts, then,
which ought not to be separated, the Prophet here connects together
very wisely and for the best reason, when he says, "Seek me, and ye
shall live"; intimating that the gate of mercy was still open,
provided the Israelites did not persevere in their obstinacy. But,
at the same time, he lays this to their charge, - that they
willfully perished through their own fault; for he shows that in
themselves was the only hindrance, that they were not saved; for God
was not only ready to receive them into favor, but also anticipated
and exhorted them, and of his own free will sought reconciliation.
How then was it, that the Israelites despised the salvation offered
to them? This was the madness which he now charges them with; for
they preferred ruin to salvation, inasmuch as they returned not to
God when he so kindly invited them, Seek me, and ye shall live. The
same thing is stated in another place, where it is said, that God
seeketh not the death of a sinner, (Ezek. 18: 32.)
    But as we have already said, the Prophets spoke thus in common
to all the people, but their doctrine was not to all efficacious;
for the Lord inwardly attracted his elect, and others were rendered
inexcusable. But still this is true, that the whole blame, that they
perished, were in the children of Israel, for they refused the
salvation offered to them. What indeed was the cause of their
destruction, but their own obstinacy? And the root of the evil, was
it not in their own hearts? Then none of them could evade the charge
made against them by the Prophet, - that they were the authors of
their own ruin, for each of them must have been conscious of his own
perverseness.
    But Amos afterwards defines the character of true repentance,
when he says, "Seek not Bethel, go not to Gilgal, pass not over to
Beersheba". Some think that the Prophet here repudiates all the
disguises, which are usually pretended by hypocrites. We indeed know
that when God calls such men to himself, that they seek indirect and
tortuous courses; for none of them return sincerely and willingly to
God. Men indeed see that they are justly reproved for having
departed from God: but when they are called back to him they take a
circuitous course, as I have said, and not the straight road. Thus,
though they pretend to seek God, they seek subterfuges that they may
not present themselves to him. All this is no doubt true; but the
Prophet advances farther; for he shows here, that the Israelites by
going to Bethel not only lost all their labour, but also grievously
offended God; for superstition was in itself condemnable. If Amos
had preached at Jerusalem, he might have said, "Go not into the
temple, for in vain ye offer sacrifices;" as indeed he does say
hereafter, "Come not with your flock." For he there shows, that God
is not to be pacified by ceremonies; nay, in that very chapter, he
rejects feast-days and sacrifices; but in this place he ascends
higher, and says that these two things are wholly contrary - to seek
God, and to seek Bethel; as though he said, "If ye from the heart
return to me, renounce all the superstitions to which you have been
hitherto attached."
    It is indeed a proof of true conversion, when the sinner is
displeased with himself on account of his sins and hates the things
which before pleased him and with a changed mind devotes himself
wholly to God. It is of this that the Prophet now treats; as though
he said, "If there is in you a purpose to return to God, cast away
all your superstitions; for these two things - true religion and
idolatry, cannot be joined together. As long then as ye remain fixed
in that false worship, to which you have accustomed yourselves, ye
continue alienated from God. Then reconciliation with him demands
that you bid adieu to all your corrupt forms of worship." The import
of the whole then is this, - that the Israelites could not be
reconciled to God, except they departed from their superstitions.
Let them turn away, he says, from Bethel, and Gilgal, and Beersheba.
    We indeed know that the calves were made at Bethel; and Gilgal,
no doubt, became celebrated for the passing of the people over
Jordan, and also, as it is well known, for the circumcising of the
children of Abraham; and as to Beersheba, we know that Abraham dwelt
there for a long time, and frequently offered sacrifices to God.
Now, this vicious zeal ("kakodzelia" - evil zeal or affectation)
ever prevails in the world; without reason or judgment it lays hold
on something special, when it undertakes to set up the worship of
God, as we see to be the case under the Papacy. But God has
prescribed to us a certain rule according to which he is to be
worshipped; it is not then his will that there should be a mixture
of our inventions. When therefore the posterity of Abraham
presumptuously availed themselves of his example, and when they
extolled the memorable event of the circumcision, God repudiated all
contrivances of this kind; for as it was well known, it was
expressly his will to be worshipped at Jerusalem; and by appointing
one tabernacle and one altar, he designed to cherish unity and
concord among the people. We now then understand that it was the
intention of Amos to show, that the conversion of the people would
be fictitious, until they turned away from all the superstitions and
vicious modes of worship, in which they had habituated themselves:
hence, Seek not Bethel, come not is Gilgal, pass not over to
Beersheba.
    The same thing may be said at this day to those who wish to
blend the dregs of the Papacy with the pure and holy worship of God;
for there are at this day many go-betweens, who, while they see that
our doctrine cannot be disapproved of, yet wish to contrive some
middle course; that is, they wish to reconcile Popery with the
doctrine of the Gospel. But the Prophet shows that such a mixture
cannot be endured by God. How so? Because light cannot agree with
darkness. Hence, corruptions, except they be abolished, will always
subvert the true worship of God. We now see, that the lesson
conveyed by this doctrine is, that the pure worship of God cannot be
restored while the corruptions of the world, which are contrary to
his word, prevail.
    "Come not then to Gilgal, for by migrating it shall migrate".
There is an alliteration in the words of the Prophet, "Gilgal by
rolling shall be rolled;" for Gilgal means rolling. Were such a
phraseology allowable, it would be this, "Gilgal by gilling shall be
gilled;" that is, it shall be rolled with quick rolling. God
intimates that this place, under the protection of which the
Israelites thought themselves safe, would be destroyed, as it had
been already destined for destruction.
    Gilgal then be migrating shall migrate; not that the place
could remove, but that it would be wholly demolished, so that
nothing should remain there but dreadful tokens of God's vengeance.
    He then adds, "Seek Jehovah, and ye shall live". This
repetition is not superfluous: the Prophet confirms what I have
already stated, that such was the opposition between the true and
legitimate worship of God, and idolatry and superstition, that the
people of Israel, as long as they retained their corruptions, proved
that they had nothing to do with God, whatever they may have
pretended with their mouths and by their ceremonies. Seek God, he
says, and ye shall live; and this repetition was very useful for
this end, that hypocrites might know that they were justly
condemned, inasmuch as they did not consecrate themselves wholly to
God; for they were ever ready to contend with God whenever they
could. "Why does God deal so strictly with us? why does he not
concede to us at least something? for we do not deny him every
thing. But if we do what we think to be right, why does he not
indulge us at least on this account?" But when God not only urges
hypocrites by his doctrine, but visits them also with punishments
then they become angry, and even raise a clamour. Hence the Prophet,
the second time, calls them to this duty, Seek Jehovah, and ye shall
live; as though he said, "Ye will gain nothing by evasion; for if
any one seeks God truly and from the heart, God will not disappoint
him; he will receive him into favour and will bless him. That ye
then pine away in your calamities, impute this to your own obstinacy
and stubbornness: it is so, because ye do not truly seek God; for
while ye retain your corruptions, as I have said before, ye do not
seek him."
    But he adds "Lest he pass on like a fire". "Tsalach" means to
pass on, to advance; it means also to break out, and sometimes to
prosper; but, in this place, the Prophet no doubt meant what I have
said. Then it is, "Lest he advance like fire upon the house of
Joseph and consume it, and there be none to extinguish it in
Bethel". The kind of vengeance which God threatened is not here
expressed, but it may be easily understood. There is, therefore, in
the meaning no obscurity; for he declares, that if the Israelites
hardened their hearts against God, a burning was nigh at hand, which
would seize on them, devour, and consume them. There shall come then
or shall advance, a fire upon the house of Joseph; some say, shall
burst out, which amounts to the same thing. By the house of Joseph
is meant Ephraim; for he was, we know, the second son of Joseph;
and, by taking a part for the whole, the Prophets usually include
the ten tribes, as it is well known, when they mention Ephraim; and
the kingdom of Israel is sometimes called the house of Joseph. Lest
then he ascend as fire into the house of Joseph, and consume it, and
there be none to extinguish it: this was said, because the
Israelites never thought that they should be thus consumed by a
sudden burning. The fire then shall devour the house of Joseph, and
there will be none to quench it.
    In the verse before I omitted one thing, to which I shall now
advert. The Prophet said, that Bethel would be for a trouble, or be
nothing. Bethel, we know, is called in another place Bethaven, the
house of iniquity; and Aven means in Hebrew sometimes iniquity,
sometimes grief or trouble, sometimes labour or difficulty, and
sometimes nothing. It is not to be taken for iniquity in this place;
this is certain: but Amos, on the contrary, speaks of punishment,
which awaited that place, since it was abominable in the sight of
God. As then he had said of Gilgal, that it would be rolled; so now
he says of Bethel, that it would be for a trouble or grief, or be
nothing. Either senses would be appropriate; - that Bethel, from
which the Israelites hoped for a remedy to all their evils, would be
to them a trouble, that is, the cause of their ruin, or that it
would be nothing; as though he had said, that their hopes would be
fallacious and empty in expecting any relief from Bethel. It
afterwards follows -

Amos 5:7
Ye who turn judgment to wormwood, and leave off righteousness in the
earth.
    
    Here the Prophet, after having inveighed against superstitions,
comes to the second table of the law. The Prophets are sometimes
wont to shake off self-complacencies from hypocrites, when they
spread before God their external veils, by saying that all their
ceremonies are useless, except accompanied with integrity of heart:
but in this place the Prophet expressly condemns in the Israelites
two things; that is, that they had corrupted the true worship of
God, departed from the doctrine of the law, and polluted themselves
with ungodly superstitions; and he also reprehends them for their
wicked and dishonest conduct towards men, - for their disregard of
what was right and equitable, - for plunder, cruelty, and fraud.
This second subject the Prophet handles, when he says, that they
converted judgment into wormwood and allowed righteousness to fall
on the ground. But the rest I must defer till to-morrow.
    
Prayer.
    
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou seest us to be so entangled, not
only by depraved lusts, but also by the allurements of Satan, and by
our own ignorance and blindness, - O grant, that being roused by thy
word we may at the same time learn to open our eyes to thy wholesome
warnings by which thou callest us to thyself: and since we cannot do
this without thy Spirit being our guide and leader, grant that he
may enlighten our eyes, to the end that, being truly and from the
heart tarried to thee, we may know that thou art propitious and
ready to hear all who unfeignedly seek thee, and that, being
reconciled to thee in Christ, we may also know that troll art to us
a propitious Father, and that thou wilt bestow on us all kinds of
blessings, until thou at length gatherest us to thy celestial
kingdom, through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Lecture fifty-eighth.

    "Ye who convert judgment into wormwood, and leave righteousness
on the ground". We stated yesterday why the Prophet added this
sentence: he wished in every way to prove the Israelites guilty.
Having inveighed against their superstitions, he now adds, that they
acted also falsely and iniquitously towards men. And he attacks the
chiefs who ruled the people, not because they were alone culpable,
but because they drew with them the whole community. We know that
diseases descend from the head to the whole body: and this is the
reason why the Prophet directs his address especially to the rulers.
He says that they turned judgment to wormwood. This similitude often
occurs. Nothing, we know, is sweeter than justice, when every one
gains his own right; for this serves much to preserve peace. Hence
nothing can be more gratifying to us, than when uprightness and
equity prevail. This is the reason why the Prophet calls that
iniquitous state of things bitterness, when no regard is had for
justice and rectitude. He says also that righteousness was cast down
on the ground, or thrown to the ground. Now the judges ought to have
defended what was right among the people: for this, we know, is the
duty enjoined them: and the Prophet now lays this to their charge
that they left justice on the ground - that they suffered it to lie
prostrate. We now perceive the Prophet's design. It follows -

Amos 5:8
[Seek him] that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the
shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with
night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out
upon the face of the earth: The LORD [is] his name:
    
    Some interpreters connect this verse with the former, and think
that what the Prophet had said before is here explained; but they
are greatly mistaken, and misrepresent the meaning of the Prophet.
We have indeed said, that the Prophet shows in that verse that the
Israelites were not only perfidious and covenant-breakers with
regard to God, having fallen away from his pure worship, but that
they also acted iniquitously and dishonestly towards men: but these
interpreters think that God is, by a metaphor, called righteousness
and that religion is called judgment. This is in no way the mind of
the Prophet; nay, it is, as I have already said, wholly different.
    What, then, does the Prophet mean? I take this verse by itself;
but yet we must see why the Prophet proclaims to us, in such sublime
terms, the power of God. We know how heedlessly hypocrites trifle
with Gods as though they had to do with a child: for they imagine a
god according to their own fancy; yea, they transform him whenever
they please, and think him to be delighted with frivolous trifles.
Hence it is, that the way of pacifying God is with them so easy.
When in various ways they provoke God's wrath, there is in readiness
some little expiation, and they think that it is a satisfaction to
God. As then hypocrites imagine that God is similar to a dead idol,
this is the reason why the Prophet, in order to banish these
delusions, shows that the nature of God is far different. "What sort
of being," he says, "do you think God to be? for ye bring your
worthless and frivolous expiations as though God would be satisfied
with these trifles, as though he were a child or some silly woman:
but God is He 'who makes the Pleiades and Orion, who turns darkness
into morning, who changes day into night, who pours forth on the
earth the waters of the sea'. Go to now, and set forth your
play-things, as though access to God were open to you, when ye
labour to pacify him with your trifles." We now perceive the
Prophet's object: we see how this verse ought to be taken
separately, and yet to be connected with the main discourse of the
Prophet; for after having inveighed against the gross vices of the
people, seeing he had to contend with the headstrong, yea, with the
mockers of God, he grows angry and sharply exclaims, "What do ye
think or feign God to be?" Then the Prophet sets forth the character
of God as being far different from what hypocrites imagine him to be
in their own fancies. "What are your notions of him?" he says. "You
indeed make God to be like a child; but he made the Pleiades and
Orion."
    Some translate "kimah" Arcturus. There is no need of laboring
much about such names; for the Jews, ignorant of the liberal
sciences, cannot at this day certainly determine what stars are
meant; and they show also their complete ignorance as to herbs. They
are indeed bold enough; they define what every word means; but yet
they betray, as I have said, their own want of knowledge. And our
Prophet was a shepherd, and had never learnt astronomy in his youth,
or in his manhood. He therefore speaks of the stars according to the
common notions of his age: but he, no doubt, selected two stars of
an opposite influence. The Pleiades (which are also called the seven
Stars) are, we know, mild; for when they rise, they moderate the
rigor of the cold, and also bring with them the vernal rain. But
Orion is a fiercer star, and ever excites grievous and turbulent
commotions both at its rising and setting. This being the case, the
Prophet names here those stars most commonly known. He says "Since
the Lord changes the seasons, so that the mildness of the spring
follows the rigor of winter, and since days succeed nights, and
darkness comes after the light, and since it is God who renders a
serene heaven suddenly cloudy by raising vapors from the veins of
the earth, or from the sea, since all these changes manifest to us
the wonderful power of God, how is it that men so presumptuously
trifle with him? Whence is this so great a stupidity, unless they
wholly overlook the works of God, and leave him a name only, and see
not what is before their eyes?" We hence see how beautifully and how
strikingly the Prophet does here set forth the power of God, and how
opportunely he speaks of it. He then "maketh the Pleiades and
Orion".
    And he adds, "He changeth darkness into the morning, he maketh
the day to grow dark into night". Here he brings before us the
various changes of times. The night turns not into day by chance,
nor does darkness come over the earth by chance when the sun has
ceased to shine. Since then this variety ought to awaken even the
unwilling, and to constrain them to adore God, how is it that his
majesty is treated by men with such mockery, that they bring their
frivolous expiations, and think him to be no more angry with them
when they present to him what is worthless and childish, as when a
nurse by a pleasing sound soothes an infant? I say again, whence is
this so great a stupor, except that men willfully close their eyes
to so bright a display, by which God shows himself to us, that he
might constrain us all to adore his name? We now see why the Prophet
describes the various changes which daily take place.
    He speaks also of the waters of the sea, "Who calleth, he says,
the waters of the sea, and poureth them on the surface of the
earth". Some explain this of fountains; for they think that all
waters proceed from the sea, and that fountains are nothing else but
as it were the eyes of the sea: but this passage ought rather to be
viewed as referring to rains; for the power of God is not so
conspicuous in the waters which come from the earth, as when he
suddenly darkens the heavens with vapors. For whence is it, that the
heavens, a while ago clear, is now cloudy? We see clouds rising, -
but at whose command? Philosophers indeed assign some natural
causes; they say that vapors are drawn up both from the earth and
the sea by the heat of the sun: but why is this done to-day rather
than yesterday? Whence is this diversity, except that God shows that
the element of water is under his control, and also the air itself,
as veil as the vapors, which are formed as it were out of nothing?
For what is vapor but gross air, or air condensed? and yet vapors
arise from the hollow places of the earth as well as from the sea.
Certainly the water could not of itself produce a new element: it is
ponderous, and vapors rise up on high: how is it that water thus
loses its own nature? But vapors are in a middle state between air
and water, and yet they ascend above the air, and arise from the
earth to the heavens. The Prophet therefore does not without reason
say, that waters are called, that is, that these vapors are called,
from the sea, and are afterwards poured on the surface of the earth.
This may be understood of the clouds as well as of rain; for clouds
extend over the earth and surround us; and rain is poured on the
earth. This is doubtless the wonderful work of God.
    Hence the Prophet concludes, "Jehovah is his name." It is not
the idol which you have devised for yourselves; for your expiations
might indeed draw a smile from a child but they cannot satisfy the
judgment of God. Then think that you have to do with God himself,
and let these fallacious delusions deceive you no longer." It
follows -

Amos 5:9
That strengtheneth the spoiled against the strong, so that the
spoiled shall come against the fortress.
    
    The Prophet speaks not now of the ordinary works of God, in
which his majesty, inspiring the highest reverence, as well as his
dread power, shines forth; but he more closely urges the Israelites,
who had become so hardened in their vices, that they were wholly
inflexible. Here then the Prophet charges them with contumacy and
says, "What, think you, will take place? Ye are strong; but God will
stir up robbers against you, who will prevail, and beat down and
chatter in pieces that obduracy, through which you now resist God."
Thus after having filled them with dread by setting before them the
course of nature, he now holds forth this threats that they would
themselves have to feel the power of God: for however callous they
were, and though in their ferocity they dared to rise up against
God, he declares that it would avail them nothing; inasmuch as there
was in God's hand a waster, who would prevail against their
obduracy.
    "And a waster, he says, shall ascend on the very fortresses",
or shall enter the fortresses. The Prophet here, in an indirect way,
laughs to scorn the vain confidence which filled the Israelites, on
observing that they were inclosed in fortified cities and had
defenses and a powerful army. All this, he says, will be wholly
useless to them when God will raise up strong depredators, who will
penetrate through well fortified gates, and leap over walls, and
enter strongly defended cities. We now apprehend what the Prophet
had in view in these words.
    It will now be easy to apply this doctrine to our own
instruction: Whenever we are not suitably moved, either by the
truth, or by warnings, or by threatenings, let this come to our
minds which the Prophet teaches here, namely, that God cannot be
mocked, and that hypocrites gain nothing by their delusive
ceremonies, when they sacrifice and present their expiations, which
by no means please God, - how so? We may indeed easily learn the
reason from the nature of God himself. Hence, that we may not
transform God, let us learn to raise up our eyes to behold him, and
also to look on all things around us; and this will constrain us to
adore and fear his great power. It follows -

Amos 5:10
They hate him that rebuketh in the gate, and they abhor him that
speaketh uprightly.
    
    It is probable that in this verse also, the judges are reproved
by the Prophet, though what is here said may be extended to the
whole people: but as nearly the whole discourse is leveled against
the judges, I readily subscribe to the opinion, that the Prophet now
accuses the judges on this account, - because they could not bear to
be reproved for the great license they allowed themselves, but, on
the contrary, abhorred all those who reproved them. What then he
says as to the reprover being hated in the gate, is to be thus
explained: When judges sat in the gate and perverted justice and
right, and when any one reminded them of their duty, they haughtily
rejected all admonitions, and even hated them. In the gate then,
that is, They who ought to rule others, and to correct whatever vice
there may be among the people, cannot themselves bear any reprover,
when their own vices require strong remedies.
    And well would it be, if this disease were healed at this day.
We indeed see that kings, and those in authority, wish to be deemed
sacred, and they will allow no reproof. Instantly the majesty of God
is violated in their person; for they complain and cry out, whenever
teachers and God's servants dare to denude their wicked conduct.
This vice then, which the Prophet condemns, is not the vice of one
time; for, even in the present day, those who occupy the seats of
judgment wish to be exempt from all reproofs, and would claim for
themselves a free liberty in sinning, inasmuch as they think not
that they belong to the common class of men, and imagine themselves
exempt from all reprehension; in short, they wish to rule without
any equity, for power with them is nothing but unbridled
licentiousness. We now understand the Prophet's meaning. It now
follows -

Amos 5:11
Forasmuch therefore as your treading [is] upon the poor, and ye take
from him burdens of wheat: ye have built houses of hewn stone, but
ye shall not dwell in them; ye have planted pleasant vineyards, but
ye shall not drink wine of them.
    
    The Prophet here declares, that though the judges enriched
themselves by plunder, yet God would not allow them to enjoy their
booty, but that he would deprive them of the great wealth they had
accumulated. This is the import of the whole. We hence see that the
Prophet contends not here with the common people, but professedly
attacks the chief men, inasmuch as from them did proceed all the
prevailing evil.
    The first thing is, "they imposed burdens on the poor", and
then, "they took away corn from them". He says first, "A burden have
you laid", or, "ye have trodden on the poor;" for the verb may be
taken in either sense, and it matters not which as to the import of
the passage. It is not indeed often that we meet with a verb of four
letters; but interpreters explain this as meaning to tread under
foot or to lay a burden. The Prophet, I doubt not, accuses here the
judges of not sparing miserable men, but of burdening them with
tributes and exactions; for this is to burden the poor. Then he
adds, "Ye have taken a load of corn". The Prophet had doubtless
fixed here on a species of cruelty in robbing others, the most
detestable. When judges take money, or any other gift, it is less
odious than when the poor are compelled to carry corn to them on
their shoulders. It was the same as though they surrendered their
very life to their plunderers; for when judges constrained loads of
corn to be brought to them, it was as though they strangled the
poor, or drew blood from their veins, inasmuch as they robbed them
of their food and support. We now perceive what the Prophet meant:
"You have, he says, oppressed the poor, and taken from them a load
of corn". Some render "bar" chosen, but improperly.
    "Ye shall therefore build", &c. He declares here that they
would not realize their hope, though they plundered on all sides to
build palaces, and though they got great possessions to enrich
themselves and their heirs: "This self-love," he says, "will deceive
you; defraud, rob, plunder; but the Lord will at length strip you of
all your robberies: for after having been venal, and prostituted not
only your souls but your shame for gain, and after having spent much
labour and expense in building, ye shall not dwell in your palaces;
and when ye shall have planted vineyards with great expense and
care, ye shall not drink their wine." Isaiah also speaks in the same
strain, 'O plunderer, thou shalt be exposed to plunders' (Isa. 33:
1.) Experience also teaches the same thing; for we see how the Lord
transfers from one to another the possessions of this world: he who
seems to provide riches after his death for his heirs for ever,
passes his whole life, as we see, without enjoying his own property;
for he is hungry in the midst of the greatest abundance, and even
famishes himself. This is very frequently the case. And then when
his abundance comes to his heirs, it falls into the hands of
prodigals, who soon dissipate the whole. And sometimes the Lord
allows not that such vast wealth should have heirs, and it is
scattered here and there, and the very name is extinguished, though
the name to such haughty and wealthy men is a great object, as they
commonly wish it to be eminent in the world for some hundred ages
after their death.
    This passage of the Prophet ought therefore to be especially
noticed. He tells us that unjust gains were laid up by these robbers
and wicked plunderers, in order to amass great riches; but he adds,
"The Lord will spoil them, and will not suffer them to enjoy their
abundance, however anxiously they had collected it from all
quarters." Let us now proceed -

Amos 5:12
For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: they
afflict the just, they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in
the gate [from their right].
    
    The Prophet introduces God here as the speaker, that the
threatening might be more authoritative: for we know, at it has been
before stated, that the Prophets were despised by haughty men; but
when God himself appeared as it were before them, it was strange if
no fear laid hold on them; they had at least no excuse for their
presumption, if God's name did not touch their hearts and humble
them.
    "I know, he says, your iniquities"; as though he said, "Ye do
not think yourselves bound to render an account to men, as probably
no such account; will be rendered by you; but how will you be able,
think you, to escape my tribunal? for I am your judge, and mine is
the government: however ferociously ye now tread on the poor, and
evasively contend with me, your crimes must necessarily be judged by
me; I know your crimes." And as the rich by their splendor covered
every wickedness, particularly the magistrates, who were adorned
with a public character, God says that their turpitude was fully
known to him: as though he said "Contend as much as you please,
still your iniquities are sufficiently apparent to me; ye will gain
nothing by your subtle evasions." Moreover, he reprehends them not
merely for slight offenses, but says that they were wholly past
being borne with. When something is done amiss by the highest power,
indulgence is commonly granted; for nothing is more difficult than
for one who sustains so great and heavy a burden, to retain so much
integrity as to be free from every blame: but the Lord shows here
that they were not lightly culpable, but that their crimes were so
grievous and flagrant that they could not be endured. We now then
understand what was the object of the Prophet.
    When therefore their own greatness dazzles the eyes of proud
men, let us know that they cannot deprive God of his right; for
though he may not judge them to-day, he will yet shortly ascend his
tribunal: and he reminds them, that those pompous displays by which
they cover their many crimes, are only shadows which will vanish.
This is what the Prophet means.
    Then he calls them, "The oppressors of the just". He enumerates
here some particulars, with regard to which, the iniquity of the
judges whom he now addresses might be, as it were, felt to be gross
and abominable. Ye oppress he says, the just; this was one thing:
then follows another, They take "kofer", expiation, or, the price of
redemption. The Prophet, I have no doubt, meant to point out here
something different from the former crime. Though interpreters blend
these two things, I yet think them to be wholly different; for these
mercenary judges made an agreement with the wicked, whenever any
homicide or other violence was perpetrated; in short, whenever any
one implicated himself in any grievous sin, they saw that there was
a prey taken, and anxiously gaped for it: they wished murders to be
committed daily, that they might acquire gain. Since, then, these
judges were thus intent on bribery, the Prophet accuses them as
being takers of ransom. They ought to have punished crimes; this
they did not; but they let go the wicked unpunished; they spared
murderers, and adulterers, and robbers, and sorcerers not indeed
without rewards, for they brought the price of redemption, and
departed as if they were innocent.
    We now perceive what the Prophet means here; and well would it
be were this crime not so common: but at this day, the cruelty of
many judges appears especially in this - that they hunt for crimes
for the sake of gain, which seems to be as it were a ransom; for
this is the proper meaning of the word "kofer". As then this evil
commonly prevails it is no wonder that the Prophet, while
reprehending the corruptions of his time, says, that judges took a
ransom.
    Then he adds, "The poor they turn aside from judgment in the
gate". This is the third crime: the Prophet complains, that they
deprived miserable men of their right, because they could not bring
so large a bribe as the rich; though relying on the goodness of
their cause, they thought themselves sure of victory. The Prophet
complains, that they were disappointed of their hope, and their
right was denied them in the gate, that is, in the court of justice;
for we know that it was an ancient custom for judges to sit in the
gates, and there to administer justice; And hence Amos mentions here
gate twice: and what he complains of was the more disgraceful,
inasmuch as the judicial court was, as it were, a sacred asylum, to
which injured men resorted, that they might have their wrongs
redressed. When this became the den of robbers, what any more
remained for them? We now then see that the Prophet speaks not here
of the common people, but that he mainly levels his reproofs against
the rulers. Let us go on -

Amos 5:13
Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time; for it [is]
an evil time.
    
    Some interpreters think that a punishment is here denounced on
the people of Israel, and that is, that the Lord would deprive them
of Prophets and teachers. We indeed know that nothing is more to be
dreaded, than that the Lord should extinguish the light of sound
doctrine, and suffer us to go astray in darkness, yea, to stumble,
and to rush headlong to ruin, as they do who are destitute of
wholesome counsels. But I think that the meaning is quite different.
Another exposition may be deemed probable, which is this, that the
prudent dared not to speak on account of the prevailing tyranny; for
Amos had said before that the judges, who then ruled, would not bear
reproof. Hence, the prudent were forced "to be silent at that time,
for that time was evil"; and every liberty of teaching was taken
away. And this meaning opens still wider; for the silent would have
to bear the wrongs done to them, and to devour inwardly their own
groans, for they dared not to complain; nay, the very teachers did
not oppose the torrent, for they saw that it was not the time to
resist haughty and violent men. But this view may be also fitly
applied to God's judgment, that the prudent would be silent, being
put in fear: for silence is often connected with fear: and it is a
dreadful judgment of God, when the prudent closes his mouth, or puts
his hand, as it is said elsewhere, on his mouth.
    As to the first exposition, I have already rejected it, and it
has certainly nothing in its favor: but the second may be
accommodated to the general meaning of the Prophet, that is, "the
prudent shall be silent at that time", because all liberty shall be
taken away. I am, at the same time, unwilling thus to restrict it,
as they do; for it became not a wise man to pass by in silence sins
so grievous: though tyrants threatened hundred deaths, yet those on
whom was laid the necessity of teaching ought not to have been
silent. But the Prophet here speaks not of what the prudent would do
or omit to do; on the contrary, he intimates, that whenever they
began to speak, the arrogance of the judges would be so great as to
repel all reproofs. The prudent then shall be silent, not willingly;
for that, as I have said, would have been unworthy of wise men. And
the Prophet here, by way of honor, calls those prudent who rightly
discern things, who are not led away by corruptions, but remain
upright; who, though they see the whole order of things collapsing,
and though they see heaven and earth, As it were, mingled together,
yet retain a sound judgment. Since the Prophet speaks of such men,
he certainly does not mean that they would be willingly silent; for
it would have been a base indolence in them thus to betray the truth
and a good cause. What then does he mean? Even this - that the
wickedness of tyrants would be so great, as not to allow one word to
be declared by the prudent; when any one came forth to reprove their
vices, he was not suffered.
    When therefore he says, that the time would be evil, he means,
that such audacity would prevail, that all liberty would be denied
to wise men. They would then be forced to be silent, for they could
effect nothing by speaking, nay, they would have no freedom of
speech allowed them: and though they attempted to discharge their
office, yet tyrannical violence would instantly impose silence on
them. Similar was the case with Lot, of whom it is said that he
groaned and vexed his own heart, (Gen. 16.) He was constrained, I
have no doubt, to be silent after having often used free reproofs;
nay, he doubtless exposed himself to many dangers by his attempts to
reprove the Sodomites. Such seems to me to be the meaning of the
Prophet, when he says, that the prudent would be silent, because
these tyrants would impose silence on all teachers, - now throwing
them into prisons, then banishing them, - now denouncing death on
them, then visiting them with some punishment, or loading them with
reproaches, or treating them with ridicule as persons worthy of
contempt. We now understand the Prophet's, design. We may further
observe, that men have then advanced to the extremity of evil, when
reception is no more given to sound doctrine and salutary counsels,
and when all liberty is sternly suppressed, so that prudent men dare
not to reprove vices, however rampant they may be, which even
children observe, and the blind feel. When licentiousness has
arrived to this pitch, it is certain that the state of things is
past recovery and that there is no hope of repentance or of a better
condition: and this was the meaning of the Prophet.
    
Prayer
    
Grant, Almighty God, that as we cannot see with our eyes thy
infinite and incomprehensible glory, which is hid from us, we may
learn at least by thy works, what thy great power is, so as to be
humbled under thy mighty hand, and never trifle with thee as
hypocrites are wont to do; but to bring a heart really sincere, and
also pure hands, that our whole life may testify that a true fear of
thy name prevails, in our hearts: and grant, that whilst we devote
ourselves wholly to thy service, we may courageously and with
invincible hearts, fight against all these corruptions, by which we
are on every side beset, until, having finished our warfare, we
attain to that celestial rest, which has been prepared for us by
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Lecture Fifty-ninth.

Amos 5:14
Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the LORD, the God
of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken.
    
    The Prophet again repeats, that it was only owing to the
Israelites themselves that it was not well with them; for God was
ready to grant them his blessing; but they designedly sought a curse
for themselves. Inasmuch, then, the hypocrites are wont to put away
from themselves the blame of every evil, and to complain of their
miseries, as though the Lord afflicted them unjustly, the Prophet
here shows, that no evil happened to the Israelites, but what they
procured by their vices: and at the same time he exhorts them to
repentance, and gives them the hope of pardon, provided they
hardened not their hearts to the last. He therefore bids them to
seek good; but by adding, seek not evil, his words are full of
meaning, as though he had said, that they were so fixed in their own
wickedness, that they could not be torn away from it. The import of
the whole, then, is this - that the Israelites could not complain of
being too severely treated by God, because they suffered not
themselves to be kindly dealt with. And the Prophet assigns this as
the reason - that they were not only alienated from what was good,
but that they also with avidity and eager desire followed what was
evil: in the meantime he exhorts them to repentance and adds a
promise the more to encourage them.
    "Seek then good, he says, that ye may live"; And then he adds,
"And thus God will be with you, as ye have said". Here the
wickedness of the people is reproved who sought to bind God to
themselves; for hypocrites are wont to misapply the promises: when
they presumptuously reject God himself, they still wish him to be
under an obligation to them. Thus they gloried that they were the
children of Abraham, an elect people; circumcision was to them like
a royal diadem; they sought to be superior to all other nations: and
thus they abused the name of God, and at the same time they
petulantly scorned both the word of God and his Prophets. As, then,
they ever boasted that God was dwelling in the midst of them, the
Prophet says, "Then and thus will God be with your if ye seek what
is good or the doing of good;" for to seek good is nothing else than
to endeavor to do good; as though he said "Change your nature and
your manners; for hitherto iniquity has prevailed among you; you
have been violent, and rapacious, and fraudulent: begin now to do
good, then God will be with you."
    There is therefore a great emphasis to be laid on the particle
"ken", "thus" will God be with you: for the Prophet reminds them of
what so often occurs in the law, "Be ye holy, for I am holy," who
dwell in the midst of you, (Lev. 11: 44.) God shows, in these words,
that it could not be that he would dwell with the Israelites except
they sanctified themselves, that there might be a mutual agreement.
But they had no regard for holiness, and yet wished God to be bound
to them. This false confidence the Prophet derides, and says, that a
certain condition is fixed in the law, according to which God would
dwell in the midst of them. Thus then will God be in the midst of
you; that is, when he sees that you strive after uprightness and the
doing of good.
    I have already explained what this means, as we have said; for
he proves that foolish vaunting to be false which was heard among
the Israelites: "Has not the Lord chosen and adopted us as his
people? Is not the ark of the covenant a sure pledge of his
presence? How then could he depart from us? God would deny himself,
were he not to keep his pledged faith; for he covenanted with our
fathers, that we should be his flock even to the end of the world."
Since, then, they thus foolishly boasted, and were, at the same
time, covenant breakers, the Prophet says, "Ye boast, indeed, by
your mouth that God is in the midst of you, but see what he in his
turn stipulates and requires from you. If, then, ye respond to his
call, he will not surely be wanting to his pledged faith; but as ye
willfully depart from him, he must necessarily become alienated from
you." We now then perceive the meaning of the Prophet in these
words. It follows -

Amos 5:15
Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the
gate: it may be that the LORD God of hosts will be gracious unto the
remnant of Joseph.

    The Prophet inculcates the same truth; and he did this
designedly; for he saw that nothing was more difficult than to bring
this people to repentance, who, in the first place, were by nature
refractory; and, in the second place, were hardened by long habit in
their vices. For Satan gains dominion by degrees in the hearts of
men, until he renders them wholly stupid so that they discern not
between right and wrong. Such, then, was the blindness which
prevailed among the people of Israel: it was therefore necessary
often to goad them as Amos does here.
    Hence he bids them "to hate evil and to love good". And this
order ought to be preserved, when we desire really to turn to God
and to repent. Amos here addresses perverse men, who were so
immersed in their own wickedness, that they distinguished no longer
between light and darkness: it was therefore not without reason that
he begins with this sentence, that they should hate evil; as though
he had said, that there had been hitherto a hostile disagreement
between them and God, and that therefore a change was necessary, in
order that they might return to him. For when any one has already
wished to devote himself to God's service, this exhortation to hate
evil is superfluous: but when one is sunk still in his own vices, he
has need of such a stimulant. The Prophet therefore does here
reprove them; and though they flattered themselves, he yet shows
that they were greatly addicted to their vices.
    He afterwards adds, "Love good". He intimates, that it would be
a new thing for them to cultivate benevolence, and to apply
themselves to what was right. The import of the whole is this, -
that the Israelites would have no peace with God, until they were
wholly changed and became new men; for they were now strangers to
goodness, and given to wickedness and depravity. But Amos mentions
here only a part of repentance: for "tov" no doubt means the doing
of good, as iniquity is properly called "ra'" [the doing of evil.]
He speaks not here of faith, or of prayer to God, but describes
repentance by its fruits; for our faith, as it has been stated in
other places, is proved in this way; it manifests itself, when
sincerity and uprightness towards one another flourish in us, when
we spontaneous]y love one another and perform the duties of love.
Thus then by stating a part for the whole, is repentance here
described; that is, the whole, as they commonly say, is shown by a
part.
    But now the Prophet adds, "And set up judgment in the gate". He
here glances at the public state of things, of which we have largely
spoken in our yesterday's lecture. A deluge of iniquity had so
inundated the land, that in the very courts of justice, and in the
passing of judgments, there was no longer any equity, any justice.
Since then corruption had taken possession of the very gates, the
Prophet exhorts them to set up judgment in the gate; it may be, he
says, that God will show mercy to the remnants of Joseph. The
Prophet shows here that it was hardly possible that the people
should continue safe; nay, that this was altogether hopeless. But as
the common degeneracy, like a violent tempest, carried away the good
along with it, the Prophet here admonishes the faithful not to
despond, though they were few in number, but to retake themselves to
God, to suffer others to fall away and to run headlong to ruin, and
at the same time to provide for their own safety, as those who flee
away from the burning.
    We now then understand the object of the Prophet: for when the
whole multitude, given up to destruction, had laid aside every care
for their safety, a few remained, who yet suffered themselves to be
borne along, as though a tempest, as it has been said, had carried
them away. The Prophet then does here give comfort to such good men
as were still alive, and shows that though the people were sinking,
there was no reason for them to despair, for the Lord still promised
to be propitious to them. What this doctrine teaches is this, - that
ten ought not to regard what a thousand may do; but they ought to
hear God speaking, rather than to abandon themselves with the
multitude; when they see men blindly and impetuously running
headlong to their own ruin, they should not follow them, but rather
listen to God, and not reject his offered salvation. However much
then their small number may dishearten them, they ought not yet to
suffer God's promises to be forced or snatched away from them, but
fully to embrace them.
    The expression, "it may be", is not one of doubt, as it has
been stated in another p]ace, (Joel 2,) but the Prophet, on the
contrary, intended sharply to stimulate the faithful, that he might,
as it was needful, increase their alacrity. Whenever then "pen",
lest perhaps or "'ulai", it may be, is set down, let us know, that
they are not intended to leave men's minds in suspense or
perplexity, that they may despond or come to God in doubt; but that
a difficulty is thereby implied, in order to stir them up and to
increase the ardor of their desire: and this is necessary in a mixed
state of things, for we see how great is the indolence of our flesh.
Even they who desire to return to God, do not hasten with that ardor
which becomes them, but creep slowly, and hardly draw themselves
along; and then when many obstacles meet them, they who would have
been otherwise full of courage, almost despair at every step. It is
therefore necessary to apply such goadings as these, "Take heed; for
when any one is beset on every side by fire, he will not long delay,
nor think with himself how he may escape without any hurt and
without any inconvenience; but he will risk danger rather than that
he should by delay or tardiness deprive himself of a way of escape.
So also ye see, that iniquity surrounds you on every side; what then
is to be done except that each of you must quickly flee away?"
    ~e now then perceive the design of the Prophet in saying, "It
may be that he will show mercy". The sum of the whole is this, -
That there was need of a great change, that they might become
altogether new men, who had hitherto devoted themselves to
wickedness, - and then, that the few should not wait until the whole
multitude joined them; for though the people resolved to go astray,
yet God ought to have been attended to, when recalling the few to
himself and bidding them to escape, as it were, from the burning, -
and, thirdly, that there is stated here a difficulty, that those
still healable might not come tardily to God, but that they might
strive against impediments and quickly run to him seeing that they
could not without great effort extricate themselves; they were
therefore to come to God, not slowly; but having overcome all
difficulties, they were on the contrary, to flee to him. It now
follows -

Amos 5:16
Therefore the LORD, the God of hosts, the Lord, saith thus; Wailing
[shall be] in all streets; and they shall say in all the highways,
Alas! alas! and they shall call the husbandman to mourning, and such
as are skillful of lamentation to wailing.
    
    The particle of inference, set down here, confirms what has
been already said, - that the Israelites vainly flattered
themselves, though they were in the worst condition. And as the
Prophet knew that there would be no end to their evasions, being, as
they were, perverse hypocrites, he cuts off all their subterfuges by
saying, that God had now announced his purpose concerning them, and
that however they might object this or that, God's judgment could no
longer be deferred by delay, for their iniquity was more than
sufficiently proved.
    "Therefore Jehovah, he says, God of hosts, the Lord, saith". He
again repeats the attributes of God, in order to set forth his
supreme power; as though he had said, that the Israelites gained
nothing by acting the part of sophisters with God; for that he is
the supreme judge, against whom there is no appeal, and whose
sentence cannot be revoked. Hence we see that what is here checked
is that waywardness which deceived the Israelites, while they
continued to clamour against God. Thus then saith Jehovah; this was
said, that they might understand that they were depraved in their
disposition, corrupt in morals, wholly given to wickedness, and
without a particle of goodness in them.
    "Thus then saith God, In all the streets of concourse there
shall be lamentation, and in all the highways they shall say, Woe!
Woe!" The Prophet disputes not here with them, nor denounces their
vices, but speaks only of punishment; as though he had said, that
the litigation was decided, that there was no need of an accuser;
for nothing now remained but that God should execute his vengeance
on them, inasmuch as he had already contended more than enough with
them. And this mode of teaching frequently occurs in the Prophets;
and it ought to be observed, that we may not think that we can gain
anything by our evasions, when the Lord regards us as guilty. Let us
then dread the punishment, which is prepared for all the intractable
and the obstinate. They shall say, he says, in all the highways,
Woe! Woe! They now prattle and think to prevail by their loquacity:
when they murmur against God, they think that a delay is thus
attained, that he dares not to inflict punishment; but God
nevertheless proceeds with his judgment; they shall cry, Woe! Woe!
there will be no time then for devising shifts, but they will be
wholly taken up with wailing.
    "They shall call, he says, the husbandman to mourning". Some
think "'ikar", derived from "nachar", which is to own, or, to make,
one's self a stranger: and they are induced to regard it so only for
this reason, because the Prophet immediately mentions those who were
skillful in mourning. But, as all the Hebrews agree as to the
meaning of this word, I am unwilling, without authority to make any
change: and it also harmonizes well with what the Prophet says. At
the same time, those Hebrew interpreters are wrong, who think that
the order is inverted, as though it ought to have been thus, "The
skillful in lamentation shall call husband men to mourning." But the
Prophet, I doubt not, meant, that all were to be led together to
mourning; for, though the manner was different, yet, in the first
place, he appoints mourning to husbandmen, and then he shows that it
would be common to all those who were wont to mourn.
    Let us then consider what the Prophet says, "Lamentation to all
the skillful in mourning". Eastern nations we know, exercised
themselves in acting grief, and so they do at this day. We find,
indeed, that they practiced all manner of gesticulations: a greater
moderation at least is seen among us, however heavy the grief may
be. And this custom in former times came also into Europe; for we
know that there were women hired to mourn at Rome; and we know that
there were everywhere those who lamented. They therefore mourned for
wages. This vicious custom the Prophet notices: but it is not
discussed here whether this was done rightly or foolishly: for the
Prophet here only refers to a common custom; 'There will be
lamentations' he says, 'to all the skillful in mourning;' that is,
all who are wont to employ their labour in weeping will now be fully
occupied. This is the first, though the last in order, at least it
is the middle between two other clauses. Now, the two others follow,
which are these, - that the very husbandmen would be led to
mourning, - and then that there would be lamentation in all the
highways. But why does the Prophet say, that all the skillful in
mourning were to be occupied in lamentation? Because the common
calamity would thus constrain them. He further adds, that this grief
would not be feigned; but that as destruction would prevail through
the cities and fields none would be exempt. However much the
husbandmen were unaccustomed to such rites, they would yet wail and
learn this new art, says the Prophet. We now then see what these
words mean: but the next verse must be joined to them -

Amos 5:17
And in all vineyards [shall be] wailing: for I will pass through
thee, saith the LORD.
    
    A reason is now added, why the whole country would be taken up
with lamentation and mourning; for the Lord would pass through the
whole land. Surely nothing was more to be desired, than that God
should visit his own land; but he here declares that he would pass
through as an enemy. As then an enemy runs through a country and
spreads devastation wherever he comes, such would be the passing
through, which the Prophet now threatens. "God, then, of whom ye
boast, as dwelling in the midst of you, will come forth, lay waste,
and consume the whole land, as when an enemy spreads ruin far and
wide."
    But the Prophet seems to allude to the passing of God,
described by Moses in Exod. 11. The Lord then passed through the
middle of Egypt; that is, his wrath pervaded the whole land; no
corner was safe or tranquil, for God's vengeance penetrated through
every part of it. So also now the Prophet intimates, that the land
of Israel would be like that of Egypt; for the Lord, who then
testified his love towards the children of Abraham, would now, on
the contrary, show himself an enemy to them, while passing through
the midst of them. And the Prophet again indirectly ridicules the
vain confidence by which the Israelites were blinded, while they
used God's name as a pretext, as it will more clearly appear from
what follows, for he says -

Amos 5:18
Woe unto you that desire the day of the LORD! to what end [is] it
for you? the day of the LORD [is] darkness, and not light.
    
    The Prophet expresses here more fully what he briefly and
obscurely touched upon as to the passing of God through the land;
for he shows that the Israelites acted strangely in setting up the
name of God as their shield, as though they were under his
protection, and in still entertaining a hope, though oppressed with
many evils, because God had promised that they should be the objects
of his care: he says that this was an extremely vain pretence. He
yet more sharply reproves their presumption by saying, "Woe to those
who desire the day of Jehovah!" This appears, even at the first
view, to be very severe; but we need not wonder that the Prophet
burns with to much indignation towards hypocrites, from whom that
security, through which they became ferocious against God, could
hardly be shaken off. And we see that the holy Spirit treats
hypocrites everywhere with much more severity than those who are
openly impious and wicked: for the despisers of God, how stupid
soever they may be, do not yet excuse their vices; but hypocrites
seek ever to draw in God into the quarrel, and they have their veils
to cover their turpitude: it was therefore necessary to treat them,
as the Prophet does here, with sharpness and severity.
    "Woe, he says, to those who desire the day of Jehovah!" Some
expound this day of Jehovah of the day of death, and pervert the
meaning of the Prophet; for they think that the Prophet speaks here
of desperate men, who seek self-destruction, or lay violent hands on
themselves. Woe, then, to those who desire the day of Jehovah, that
is, who have recourse to hanging or to poison, as no other remedy
appears to them. But the Prophet, as I have already reminded you,
does here on the contrary rouse hypocrites. Others think that the
contempt which Amos has before noticed, is here reproved; and this
in part is true; but they do not sufficiently follow up the
Prophet's design; for they do not observe what is special in this
place, - that hypocrites flattered themselves, falsely assuming this
as a truth, that they were the people of God, and that God was bound
to them. Though, then, the Israelites had been a hundred times
perfidious, they yet continued arrogantly to boast of their
circumcision; and then the law and the sacrifices, and all their
ceremonies, were to them as banners, - "O! we are a holy nation, and
God's heritage; we are the children of Abraham, and the redeemed of
the Lord; we are a priestly kingdom." As then these things were
ready in the mouth of all, the Prophet says, "Woe to those who
desire the day of Jehovah!" And, indeed, when the Lord had begun to
punish them for their sins, they still said, "The Lord, it may be,
intends to try our constancy: but how can he destroy us? for he
would then be false; his covenant cannot be made void: it is then
certain that we shall be saved, and that he will be shortly
reconciled to us." They did not indeed expect that God would be
propitious to them; but as they were overwhelmed with many evils,
they sought to allay their sorrows by such a drug.
    When therefore the Prophet saw, that the Israelites so
waywardly flattered themselves, and so foolishly and wickedly laid
claim to the name of God, he says, Woe to those who desire the day
of Jehovah! What will this be, he says, to you? The day of Jehovah
will be darkness and not light; as though he said, "God is an enemy
to you, and the nearer he comes to you, the more grievously you must
be afflicted: he will bring nothing to you but devastation, for he
will come armed to destroy you. There is therefore no reason for you
to boast that you are a chosen people, that you are a priestly
kingdom, for ye are fallen away from the favor of God; and this is
to be imputed to your own misconduct. God then is armed for your
destruction; and whenever he will appear, he will at the same time
pursue you with cruelty and violence; and it will be for your
destruction that God will come thus armed to you. Whenever then the
Lord will come, your evils must necessarily be increased. The day
then of Jehovah will be darkness and not light." He afterwards
confirms this truth -

Amos 5:19
As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into
the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him.
[Shall] not the day of the LORD [be] darkness, and not light? even
very dark, and no brightness in it?

    Here is expressed more clearly what the Prophet had said
before, - that hypocrites can have no hope, that the various
changes, which may take place, will bring them any alleviation.
Hypocrites, while straying in circuitous courses, do indeed promise
better things to themselves, when the condition of the times is
changed: and as Satan transforms himself into an angel of light, so
hypocrites imitate the true servants of God. But it is a false
imitation; for these are only fading flowers, no fruit follows; and
besides, they proceed not from a living root. When the children of
God are at any time pressed down by adverse events, they sustain and
patiently nourish their faith with this consolation, - that clouds
soon pass away: so also when the Lord chastises them with temporal
punishment, he will presently return into favor with them.
Hypocrites present the same outward appearance; but they widely
differ from the faithful: for when the faithful promise to
themselves a prosperous issue, they are at the same time touched
with a sense of their own evils, and study to reconcile themselves
to God; but hypocrites continue immersed in their vices and boldly
despise God; and at the same time they see here and there, and when
any change happens they think that they have got rid of all evils.
Inasmuch then as they deceived themselves with vain consolation, the
Prophet now says, "You have no cause to think that it will be better
with you, when one calamity shall pass away; for the same thing will
happen to you, as when one flees away from a lion and meets with a
bear, as when one escapes from a bear, and betakes himself to his
own house, and there a serpent finds him: while he is leaning with
his hand on the wall, a serpent bites him. Thus the Lord has in
readiness various and many ways, by which he can punish you. When
therefore ye shall have sustained one battle, when one enemy
departs, the battle will be immediately renewed and that by another
enemy: when a foreign power does not rage through the kingdom of
Israel, the Lord will consume you either by famine, or by want, or
by pestilence." We then see how well the context of the Prophet
harmonizes together.
    "You have no reason," he says, "to hope for any light from the
day of Jehovah." Why? "For Jehovah will not come, except when armed;
for, as ye conduct yourselves in a hostile manner towards him, he
must necessarily take vengeance. He will, therefore, bring with him
no light, except it may be to fulminate against you: but his
appearance will be dreadful, even darkness and thick darkness; and
then, when he ceases to pursue you in one way, he will assail you in
another; and, when foreign enemies spare you, God will find means by
which he may destroy you in your own land without the agency of men;
for ye have already found what the sterility of the land is, and
what pestilence is: the Lord then has all such modes of vengeance in
his own hand. Think not, therefore, that there will be any
alleviation to you, were the world to change a hundred times, and
were the condition of the country wholly different."
    But the Prophet did not intend here to drive all those
indiscriminately into despair, who were guilty of grievous offenses,
but his design was to shake off from hypocrites their
self-flatteries, that by such proofs they might be led to know that
God would be ever like himself. If, then, they wished to return into
favor with him, he shows that a change was needful: when they put
off their perverse conduct, God would be instantly ready to give
them pardon; but, if they proceeded in their vices and obstinate
wickedness, and always continued in that hardness, in which they had
hitherto indulged, he declares, that the day of Jehovah would be
ever to them dark and gloomy, and that, though the Lord does not
always use the same kind of rod, he yet has means innumerable, by
which he can destroy a perverse nation, such as the Israelites then
were.
    
Prayer.
    
Grant, Almighty God, that seeing we are so sleepy, yea, so
fascinated by our sins, that nothing is more difficult than to put
off our own nature and to renounce that wickedness to which we have
become habituated, - O grant, that we, being really awakened by thy
scourgings, may truly return to thee, and that, having wholly
changed our disposition and renounced all wickedness, we may
sincerely, and from the heart, submit ourselves to thee, and so look
forward to the coming of thy Son, that we may cheerfully and
joyfully wait for him, by ever striving after such a renovations of
life as may strip us of our flesh and all corruptions, until, being
at length renewed after thine image, we become partakers of that
glory, which has been obtained for us by the blood of the same, thy
only-begotten Son. Amen.


Lecture Sixtieth.

Amos 5:21-23
21  I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your
solemn assemblies.
22  Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I
will not accept [them]: neither will I regard the peace offerings of
your fat beasts.
23  Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not
hear the melody of thy viols.

    Here the Prophet, anticipating an objection, shows that the
Israelites deceived themselves, for they believed that God was
pacified by their sacrifices: he declares all these to be useless;
not only, as I think, because they themselves were impure; but
because all their sacrifices were mere profanations. We have said
elsewhere that sacrifices are often reprehended by the Prophets,
when not accompanied by godliness and sincerity: for why did God
command sacrifices to be offered to him under the law, except as
religious exercises? It was hence necessary that they should be
accompanied with penitence and faith. But hypocrites thought, as we
have seen, that they thereby discharged their whole duty: it was
then a profanation of divine worship. Though the Jews, as to the
external form, had not departed from the rule of the law, yet their
sacrifices were vicious, and repudiated by God: "I cannot bear them
- they are a weariness to me - I repudiate them - I loathe them," -
these are expressions we meet with every where in Isaiah. And yet
hypocrites regarded their worship as conformable to the law; but
impurity of heart vitiated all their works, and this was the reason
that God rejected every thing which the Jews thought available for
holiness. But different, as I think, was the design of our Prophet:
for it was not only for this reason that he blamed the Israelites, -
because they falsely pretended God's name in their sacrifices, but
because they were apostates; for they had departed from the teaching
of the law, and built for themselves a spurious temple.
    It is yet true that they were deluded with this false notion,
that their sins were expiated by sacrifices: but God reproved the
Israelites, not only for this gross error, with which the Jews were
also infected but for having renounced his true and lawful worship.
Hence the external form of their worship deserved to be condemned;
for it was not right to offer sacrifices except on mount Zion: but
they, without having the ark of the covenant, devised a worship
else-where, and even there worshipped the calves. We now understand
the design of the Prophet: and this ought to be carefully observed,
for interpreters think that the Prophet had nothing else in view,
but to condemn a false presumption in the Israelites, because they
sought to satisfy God with external sacrifices, while they were yet
continuing obstinately in their sins. But the other evil ought to be
added, which was, that they had corrupted the true worship of God
even in its outward form.
    Having now pointed out the prophet's object, I come to consider
his words, "I have hated, I have rejected", &c. The word "chagag"
means to leap and to dance: hence "chag" signifies a sacrifice as
well as a festal day. Some then render the words, "I have rejected
your sacrifices," and those which follow, thus, "I will not smell at
your solemnities." Others render the last word, "assemblies."
"'Atsar" means to restrain, and sometimes to gather: hence
"'atsarah" means an assembly or a congregation. But "'otsrot" means
a festal day, because the people, as it is well known, were then
restrained from work, and also, because they were detained in the
sanctuary. But with respect to the subject itself, it makes but
little difference, whether we read assembly or a festal day: we see
that what the Prophet meant was this, - that God rejected all the
rites, by which the Israelites thought that he was pacified, as
though they were the most effectual expiations. He does not simply
declare that they were of no account before God; but he speaks much
stronger and says, that God despised and abhorred them. I regard, he
says, with hatred your festal days. He speaks also of burnt
offerings, When ye offer me sacrifices and your gift, &c. "Minchah"
properly means a gift of flour, which was an addition to the
sacrifice; but it is often taken generally for any kind of offering.
It is indeed certain that the Prophet meant, that however much the
Israelites accumulated their ritual observances, they did nothing
towards appeasing God, inasmuch as they observed not the law that
was given them; and they turned also to a wrong purpose their
sacrifices; for they did not exercise themselves in piety and in the
spiritual worship of God, but, on the contrary, spread veils before
God, that by presenting a fictitious form of worship, they might
cover all their sins; for they thought themselves to be hidden from
God.
    This is the reason why the Prophet declares that these
offerings would not be received by God, "lo ertseh", "I will not
accept" them. The Prophet no doubt alludes here to those promises,
which are to be found everywhere in the law, as he did when he said
in the last verse, "lo ariach", I will not smell. "Ruch" means to
smell; and Moses often uses the expression, that God is delighted
with the odour of sacrifices, or with the smell of incense. But when
the Lord declares that odour is pleasant to him, he means that it is
so, provided the people sacrificed rightly, that is, when they
brought not sacrifices as false veils to cover their sins, but as
true and real evidences of their faith and repentance; God promised
in that case that sacrifices would be a sweet odour to him. Now, on
the contrary, he declares that the perfume would not be acceptable
to him, nor sacrifices appeasing. But sacrifices not only were
acceptable to God, but also pacified him. Since then the Lord had so
often said, that he would be propitious to his people, when
sacrifices were offered, it was necessary expressly to cut off this
confidence from the Israelites, when they dealt not faithfully with
God. God never disappointed his true worshipers, but ever received
them into favor, provided they approached him in sincerity. But as
these hypocrites dealt falsely with him, they were necessarily
disappointed of their hope, as the Prophet here declares.
    "The peace-offerings of your fat things, he says, I will not
regard". God indeed promised in the law that he would regard their
sacrifices provided they were lawful; but as the Israelites had in
two ways departed from pure worship, God now justly says, I will not
look on your sacrifices, nor on the peace-offerings of your fat
things. He calls them the peace-offerings of fat things, intimating,
that though the beasts were the choicest, they would not yet be
acceptable to him; for the Lord regards not fatness, as he needs
neither meat nor drink. Then, in a word, the Prophet here sets this
fatness in opposition to true godliness and obedience too. In both
respects there was, as we have seen, a defect among the Israelites;
for they obeyed not the law as to its outward requirements, and
their hearts were impure and perverse: hence all their sacrifices
were necessarily polluted and corrupt.
    It follows, "Take away from me the multitude of thy songs". By
speaking of multitude, he aims at hypocrites, who toil much in their
devices without measure or end, as we see done at this day by those
under the Papacy; for they accumulate endless forms of worship, and
greatly weary themselves, morning and evening; in short, they spend
days and nights in performing their ceremonies, and every one
devises some new thing, and all these they heap together. Inasmuch,
then, as men, when they have begun to turn aside from the pure word
of God, continually invent various kinds of trifles, the Prophet
here touches indirectly on this foolish laboriousness when he says,
Take away from me the multitude of thy songs. He might have simply
said, "Thy songs please me not;" but he mentions their multitude,
because hypocrites, as I have said, fix no limits to their outward
ceremonies: and a vast heap especially follows, when once they take
to themselves the liberty of devising this or that form of worship.
Hence God testifies here, that they spend labour in vain, for he
rejects what he does not command, and whatever is not rightly
offered to him.
    "And the harmony of lyres", or of musical instruments. But
"nevel" was an instrument, which, as to its kind, is unknown to us
now. Take away, then, from me the harmony of lyres; for the verb,
take away, may refer to both clauses; though some join them to the
last the verb "lo 'eshma'" I will not hear. The difference really is
very little: but their view is the most probable, who join together
the two clauses, 'Take away from me the multitude of thy songs and
the harmony of lyres;' with which thou thinkest me to be delighted.
They afterwards take "lo 'eshma'" "I will not hear," by itself. But
I contend not about such minute things: it is enough to know the
design of the Prophet. It now follows -

Amos 5:24
But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty
stream.
    
    Interpreters variously expound this verse. To some it seems an
exhortation, as though the Prophet said, "Ye thrust on me victims of
beasts and various ceremonies; but I regard not these things; for
the interior purity of heart alone pleases me: take away then all
these things, which are of no moment with me, and bring what I
especially require and demands even a pure and sincere heart."
    Some also think that newness of life is here described by its
fruits or its evidences: for the Prophet mentions not purity, speaks
not of faith and repentance, but by the fruits sets forth that
renovation, which God always chiefly regards, and for the sake of
which he had required sacrifices under the law. The meaning then is,
that hypocrites are here recalled to true worship, because they
vainly and absurdly tormented themselves with their own fictions:
and by requiring from them righteousness and judgment, he required a
holy and pure life, or, in a word, uprightness.
    Others think that the Prophet turns aside here to celebrate the
grace of Christ, which was to be made known in the gospel: and the
verb "yigal" is rendered by many "shall be revealed;" but others
more correctly derive it from the root "gal, to roll. Let justice
then as it were, roll. But I will return to the second exposition.
Most think that there is here a prediction of that righteousness
which God was to make known by the coming of Christ; and some retain
also the proper meaning of the verb "gal", to roll. They then say
that the gospel is here compared to an impetuous river and a violent
stream, because the Lord would rush on and penetrate through all
hindrances, how many soever Satan might attempt to throw in his way.
But this meaning seems not to harmonize with the Prophet's words and
is in my judgment, too refined.
    Some again regard the verse as a threatening, and think that
God here reproves the Israelites, as though he had said, that since
they were trifling with and mocking him, he would at length show
what was true righteousness and what was true judgment: for
hypocrites think that they come not short of a perfect state, when
they are veiled by their ceremonies, inasmuch as they flee to these
lurking holes, when they would cover all their flagitous deeds.
Hence they think not that they are guilty, for they hide their sins
under their ceremonies as under Ajax's shield. Seeing then that they
thus trifle with God, some interpreters think that God here sharply
reproves them and says, that they were greatly deceived, for he
would himself at length make known what was true righteousness.
Righteousness then shall run down or be rolled; and by this verb he
expresses impetuosity; but he sets it forth afterwards more clearly
by "eitan", "Judgment shall be a violent stream." But hypocrites
amuse themselves as children do with their puppets. Inasmuch then as
they do nothing seriously, and yet desire to pacify God as with
baubles, the Prophet here shakes off such delusions, as though he
said, "Do you think that God is like a child? Why do you set up
these trifles? Do you think that righteousness is a fictitious
thing, or that judgment is a vain figment? The Lord will certainly
show to you how precious righteousness is. It shall therefore run
down as violent waters, as an impetuous stream. Judgment," he says
"shall rush upon you and overwhelm you." This is the third meaning.
    But the verse may be again explained in a different way, as
though God obviated an objection; for hypocrites, we know, always
raise a clamour, and make no end of contending; "What! Have we then
lost all our labour, while endeavoring to worship God? Is all this
to go for nothing? And further, we have not only offered sacrifices,
but sought also to testify that the glory of God is to us an object
of concern. Since then we have had a care for religion, why should
God now reject us?" The Prophet here shortly answers, - that if only
they brought forth true righteousness, their course would be free;
as though he said, "God will not put a check to your righteousness
and rectitude:" and this must be referred to the fruit or
remuneration; as though the Prophet said, "Only worship God in
sincerity, and he will not disappoint you; for a reward will be laid
up for you; your righteousness shall run down as a river." As it is
said in another place, 'Your righteousness shall shine as the dawn,'
so it is also in this, 'Your righteousness shall run down as violent
waters.' There was therefore no reason for hypocrites to expostulate
and say that wrong was done them by God, or that their performances
were lightly esteemed, since God openly testified, that he would
provide for righteousness, that it might have a free course, like an
impetuous river: and this seems to be the genuine meaning of the
Prophet. While I do not wholly reject the other expositions, I do
not yet follow them; but show what I mostly approve.
    Then the Prophet, after having bidden them to throw aside all
their fictitious and spurious forms of worship, does not now simply
exhort the Israelites, as some think, to exhibit righteousness and
rectitude, but expresses this in the form of a promise, "Run down
shall your righteousness as impetuous waters, provided it be true,
and not an empty name. Whenever God shall see in you sincere
rectitude, there will certainly be prepared an ample reward for
you." It follows -

Amos 5:25,26
Have ye offered unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness
forty years, O house of Israel?
But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun your
images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves.

    The Prophet shows in this place, that he not only reproved
hypocrisy in the Israelites in obtruding on God only external
display of ceremonies without any true religion in the heart; but
that he also condemned them for having departed from the rule of the
law. He also shows that this was not a new disease among the people
of Israel; for immediately at the beginning their fathers mixed such
a leaven as vitiated the worship of God. He therefore proves that
the Israelites had ever been given to superstitions, and could not
by any means be retained in the true and pure worship of God.
    Have ye then caused sacrifices, victims, or an oblation to come
before me in the desert for forty years? He addresses them as though
they had perverted God's worship in the desert, and yet they were
born many ages after; what does he mean? Even this, - the Prophet
includes the whole body of the people from their first beginning, as
though he said, "It is right to inclose you in the same bundle with
your fathers; for you are the same with your fathers in your ways
and dispositions." We hence see that the Israelites were regarded
guilty, not only because they vitiated God's worship in one age by
their superstitions, but also from the beginning. And he asks
whether they offered victims to him: it is certain that such was
their intention; for they at no time dared to deny God, by whom they
had been not long before delivered, and we know that though they
made for themselves many things condemned by the law, they ever
adhered to this principle, "The God, who has redeemed us, is to be
worshipped by us:" yea, they always proudly boasted of their father
Abraham. They had never then willingly alienated themselves from
God, who had chosen Abraham their father and themselves to be his
people: and indeed the Prophet shortly before had said, 'Take away
from me,' &c.; and then, 'when ye offer to me sacrifices and a gift
of flour, I will not count them acceptable.' There seems to be an
inconsistency in this - that God should deny that victims had been
offered to him - and yet say that they were offered to him by the
people of Israeli when, as we have stated, they had presumptuously
built a profane and spurious altar. The solution is easy, and it is
even this, - that the people had ever offered sacrifices to God, if
we regard what they pretended to do: for good intentions as it is
commonly called, so blinds the superstitious, that with great
presumption they trifle with God. Hence with respect to them we may
say that they sacrificed to God; but as to God, he denies that what
was not purely offered was offered to him. We now then see why God
says now, that sacrifices were not offered to him in the wilderness:
he says so, because the people blended with his worship the leaven
of idolatry: and God abhorred this depravation. This is the meaning.
    But another objection may be again proposed. This defection did
not prevail than, and the whole people did not give their consent to
idolatry; and still more, we know what the impostor Balaam said,
that Jacob had no idol; and speaking in the twentieth chapter of
Numbers, by the prophetic spirit, he testifies that the only true
God reigned in Jacob, and that there were among them no false gods.
How then does the Prophet say now that idolatry prevailed among
them? The answer is ready: The greater part went astray: hence the
whole people are justly condemned; and though this sin was reproved,
yet they relapsed continually, as it is well known, into
superstitions; and still more, they worshipped strange gods to
please strumpets. Since it was so, it is no wonder that they are
accused here by the Prophet of not having offered victims to God,
inasmuch as they were contaminated with impure superstitions: it
could not then be, that they brought anything to God. At the same
time God's worship, required by his law, was of such importance,
that he declared that he was worshipped by Jacob, as also Christ
says, "we know what we worship," (John 4: 22;) and yet not one in a
hundred among the Jews cherished the hope of eternal life in his
heart. They were all Epicureans or profane; nay, the Sadducees
prevailed openly among them: the whole of religion was fallen, or
was at least so decayed, that there was no holiness and no integrity
among them; and yet Christ says, "We know what we worship ," and
this was true with regard to the law.
    Now then we see that the Prophets speak in various ways of
Israel: when they regard the people, they say, that they were
perfidious, that they were apostates, who had immediately from the
beginning departed from the true and legitimate worship of God: but
when they commend the grace of God, they say, that the true worship
of God shone among them, that though the whole multitude had become
perverted, yet the Lord approved of what he had commanded. So it is
with Baptism; it is a sacred and immutable testimony of the grace of
God, though it were administered by the devil, though all who may
partake of it were ungodly and polluted as to their own persons.
Baptism ever retains its own character, and is never contaminated by
the vices of men. The same must be said of sacrifices.
    I shall now return to the words of the Prophet: "Have you
offered to me victims for forty years in the desert?" He enhances
their sin by the circumstance of their condition; for they were
there shut up in a narrow and hard confinement, and yet they turned
aside after their superstitions. And it was certainly a monstrous
thing: God fed them daily with manna; they were therefore under the
necessity, however unwilling, of looking up to heaven every day; for
God constrained their unwillingness with no common favor. They knew,
too, that water flowed for them miraculously from a rock. Seeing
then that God constrained them thus to look up to him, how was it
that they yet became vain through their own deceptions? It was, as I
have said, a prodigious blindness. Hence the Prophet speaks of the
forty years and of the desert, that the atrocity of their sin might
more fully appear; for the Lord could not, by so many bonds, keep
the people from such a madness.
    It now follows, "And ye have carried Sicuth your king. This
place, we know, is quoted by Stephen in the seventh chapter of the
Acts: but he followed the Greek version; and the Greek translator,
whoever he was, was mistaken as to the word, Sicuth, and read,
Sucoth, and thought the name an appellative of the plural number,
and supposed it to be derived from "such", which means a tabernacle;
for he translated it "skenen", as if it was said, "Ye bore the
tabernacle of your king instead of the ark." But it was a manifest
mistake; for the probability is, that Sicuth was the proper name of
an idol. Ye bore then Sicuth your king. He called it their king by
way of reproach; for they had violated that priestly kingdom, which
God had instituted; for he, as a king, exercised dominion over them.
Since then God would be deemed the king of Israel, as he had
ascribed to himself that name, and since he promised to them a
kingdom, as in due time he gave them, it was the basest ingratitude
in them to seek an idol to be their king; it was indeed a denial of
God which could not be borne, not to allow themselves to be governed
by him. We hence see how sharply he upbraids them, for they had
refused to God his own kingdom, and created for themselves the
fictitious Sicuth as their king.
    Then it follows, "And Kiun, your images". Some think that Kiun
means a cake, and "kuh" is to burn, and from this they think the
word is derived; but others more correctly regard it as a proper
name; and the Prophet, I have no doubt, has named here some feigned
god after Sicuth. Kiun then, your images; I read the words as being
in apposition. Others say, "The cake of your images;" and some
render the words literally, "Kiun your images;" but yet they do not
sufficiently attend to the design of the Prophet; for he seems here
to ridicule the madness of the people, because they dreamt that some
deity was inclosed in statues and in such masks. "Ye carried" he
says "both Sicuth and Kiun, your images. I am now deprived of honor,
for ye could not bear me to govern you. Ye now enjoy your King
Sicuth; but, in the meantime, let us see what is the power of Sicuth
and Kiun; they are nothing more than images. Seeing then that there
is neither strength nor even life in them, what madness is it to
worship such fictitious things?"
    But some think that Kiun was the image of Saturn. What the
Hebrews indeed say, that this idolatry was derived from the Persian,
is wholly groundless; for the Persian, we know, had no images nor
statues, but worshipped only the sacred fire. As, then, the Persian
had no images, the Jews fabled, in their usual way, when they said
that Kiun was an image of Saturn. But all the Jews, I have no doubt,
imagined that all the stars were gods, as they made images for them;
for it immediately follows, "A constellation", or a star, your
gods". These, he says, are your gods; even stars and images; and
there is here a sarcasm ("sarkasmos") used; for the Prophet derides
the folly of the people of Israel, who, being not content with the
Maker of heaven and earth, sought for themselves dead gods, or
rather vain devices. "Your gods then," he says, "are images and
stars."
    But it must be observed, that he calls them images: he does
not, as in other places, call them idols; and this, I say, ought to
be observed, for here is refuted the foolish and puerile refinement
of the Papists, who at this day excuse all their superstitions,
because they have no idols; for they deny that their devices are
idols. What then? They are images. Thus they hide their own baseness
under the name of images. But the Prophet does not say that they
were idols; he does not use that hateful word which is derived from
grief or sorrow; but he says that they were images. The name then in
itself has nothing base or ominous; but, at the same time, as the
Lord would not have himself represented by any visible figure, the
Prophet here expressly and distinctly condemns Sicuth and Kiun. The
Greek translator whom Stephen followed, put down the word, types or
figures, that is, images. Now, when any one says to the Papists.
that their figures or images are sinful before God, they boldly deny
this; but we see that their evasion avails nothing.
    He adds in the last place, "Which ye have made for yourselves".
I prefer rendering the relative "asher" in the neuter gender, as
including all their fictitious gods, and also their images, which
things then ye have made for yourselves. To make these things is at
all times vicious in sacred things; for we ought not to bring any
thing of our own when we worship God, but we ought to depend always
on the word of his mouths and to obey what he has commanded. All our
actions then in the worship of God ought to be, so to speak,
passive; for they ought to be referred to his command, lest we
attempt any thing but what he approves. Hence, when men dare to do
this or that without God's command, it is nothing else but
abomination before him. And the Greeks call superstitions
"ethelothreskeias"; and this word means voluntary acts of worship,
such as are undertaken by men of their own accord. We now understand
the whole design of the Prophet. It follows -

Amos 5:27
Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus,
saith the LORD, whose name [is] The God of hosts.
    
    Here the Prophet at last denounces exile on the Israelites as
though he had said that God would not suffer them any longer to
contaminate the Holy Land, which had been given them as an heritage,
on the condition that they acknowledged him as the only true God.
God had now, for a long time, borne with the Israelites though they
had never ceased to pollute his land with superstitions. He comes
now to cleanse it. "I will cause you, he says, to migrate beyond
Damascus"; for they thought that enemies were driven, by means of
that fortress, from the whole country, and they took shelter there
as in a quiet nest. The expression would have otherwise no meaning,
and this is what interpreters have not noticed. They say, "I will
cause you to migrate beyond Damascus" that is, to a far country; but
why did the Prophet mention Damascus? This reason ought to be
observed. It was because the Israelites thought that all the attacks
of enemies would be prevented by having the city Damascus as their
defense, which they supposed was impregnable. "That fortress," the
Lord says, "will not prevent me from taking you away, and removing
you as far as the Assyrians." We now see what the Prophet means, and
why he expressly added the name of Damascus.
    It follows, "The God of hosts is his name." Here the Prophet
confirms his threatening, lest hypocrites should think that he did
not speak in earnest: for we know how readily they flattered
themselves; and when the Lord fulminated, they remained secure.
Hence the Prophet, that he might strike terror, says, that the
speaker is the God of hosts, as though he said, "Ye cannot hope to
escape the vengeance which God now denounces on you; for his power
is infinite, he is the Lord of hosts. See then that he is prepared
to destroy you except ye timely repent." This is the meaning. I will
not now proceed farther.

Prayer.

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou seest us to be so prone to corrupt
superstitions, and that we are with so much difficulty restrained by
thy word, - O grant, that we being confirmed by thy Spirit, may
never turn aside either to the right hand or to the left, but be
ever attentive to thee alone, and not worship thee presumptuously,
nor pollute thy worship with our outward pomps, but call on thee
with a sincere heart, and, recumbing on thy aid, flee to thee in all
our necessities, and never abuse thy holy name, which thou hast
designed to be engraven on us, but be conformed to the image of thy
Son, that thou mayest be to us truly a Father, and that we may be
thy children, in the name of the same Christ our Lord. Amen.



Chapter 6.

Lecture Sixty-first.

Amos 6:1
Woe to them [that are] at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of
Samaria, [which are] named chief of the nations, to whom the house
of Israel came!

    The Prophet now directs his discourse not only to the
Israelites, to whom he was especially given as an instructor and
teacher, but includes the Jews also: and yet he addresses not all
indiscriminately, but only the chief men, who were intent on their
pleasures, as though they were exempt from the common miseries: for
he does not, as many suppose, reprove here luxury and pride only;
but we must remember a fact connected with their case, - that they
were not awakened by God's judgments; when God severely punished the
sins of the people, the chief men remained ever heedlessly in their
own dregs. This security is now condemned by our Prophet.
    And this is a very common evil, as we may see, in the present
day. For when the Lord afflicts a country with war or with famine,
the rich make great gain of such evils. They abuse the scourges of
God; for we see merchants getting rich in the midst of wars,
inasmuch as they scrape together a booty from every quarter. For
they who carry on war are forced to borrow money, and also the
peasants and mechanics, that they may pay taxes; and then, that they
may live, they are obliged to make unjust conditions: thus the rich
increase in wealth. They also who are in authority, and in favor at
the court of princes, make more gain in wars, in famine, and in
other calamities, than during times of peace and prosperity: for
when peace nourishes, the state of things is then more equable; but
when the poor are burdened, the rest grow fat. And this is the evil
now noticed by the Prophet.
    Hence he pronounces here a curse on the secure and those at
ease; not that it is an evil thing, or in itself displeasing to God,
when any one quietly enjoys his leisure; but, not to be moved, when
the Lord openly shows himself to be displeased and angry, when his
scourges are manifestly inflicted, but to indulge ourselves more in
pleasures, - this is to provoke him, as it were, designedly. The
secure, then, and the presumptuous the Prophet here condemns, for it
became them to humble themselves when they saw that God was incensed
against them. They were not indeed more just than the multitude; and
when God treated the common people with such severity, ought not the
chiefs to have looked to themselves, and have examined their own
life? As they did not do this, but made themselves drunk with
pleasures, and put far off every fear and thought that the scourges
of God were nothing to them, - this was a contempt deservedly
condemned by the Prophet. We see that God was in the same manner
greatly displeased, as it is recorded in Isaiah: when he called them
to mourning, they sang with the harp, and, according to their
custom, feasted sumptuously and joyfully, (Isa. 23: 12.) As then
they thus persevered in their indulgences, the Lord became extremely
angry; for it was, as though they avowedly despised him and scorned
all his threatening.
    We now observe the design of the Prophet, which interpreters
have not sufficiently noticed. It behaves us indeed ever to keep in
view these scourges of God, by which he began to visit the sins of
the people. God can by no means endure, as I have said, such a
contumacy as this, - that men should go on in the indulgence of
their sins and never regard their judge and feel no guilt. Hence the
Prophet says, "Woe to you who are secure in Zion, who are confident,
that is, who are without any fear, on the mount of Samaria". He
names here the mount of Zion and the mount of Samaria; for these
were the chief cities of the two kingdoms, as we all know. The whole
country had been laid waste with various calamities; the citizens of
Jerusalem and of Samaria were, at the same time, wealthy; and then
trusting in their strongholds, they despised God and all his
judgments. This then was the security, full of contumacy, which is
condemned by the Prophet.
    He then mentions their ingratitude: he says that these
mountains had been celebrated from the beginning of the nations, and
that the Israelites entered into them. God here upbraids both the
Jews and Israelites with having come to a foreign possession: for
they had got those cities, not by their own velour, but the Lord
drove out before them the ancient inhabitants. Seeing then that they
perceived not that a safe dwelling was given them there by the Lord,
that they might purely worship him and submit to his government,
their ingratitude was inexcusable. The Prophet then, after having
inveighed against the gross and heedless security, with which the
chiefs of both kingdoms were inebriated, now mentions their
ingratitude: "Ye are not natives, but ye have come in, for God did
go before you, for it was his will to give you this land as your
possession: why then are you now so inflated with pride against him?
For before your time these cities were certainly well known and
celebrated; and yet this was of no avail to the natives themselves.
Why then do ye not now fear the Lord's judgment and repent, when he
threatens you? Yea, when he shows his scourges to you?" We now
perceive the Prophet's meaning in this verse. It now follows -

Amos 6:2
Pass ye unto Calneh, and see; and from thence go ye to Hamath the
great: then go down to Gath of the Philistines: [be they] better
than these kingdoms? or their border greater than your border?
    
    By this representation Amos shows that there was no excuse for
the Jews or the Israelites for sleeping in their sins, inasmuch as
they could see, as it were in a mirror, the judgments which God
brought on heathen nations. It is a singular favour, when God
teaches us at the expense of others: for he could justly punish us
as soon as we transgress; but this he does not, on the contrary he
spares us; and at the same time he sets others before us as
examples. This is, as we have said a singular favor: and this is the
mode of teaching which our Prophet now adopts. He says, that Calneh
and Hamath, and Gath, were remarkable evidences of God's wrath, by
which the Israelites might learn, that they had no reason to rest on
their wealth, to rely on their fortresses, and to think themselves
free from all dangers; for as God had destroyed these cities, which
seemed impregnable, so he could also cut off Jerusalem and Samaria,
whenever he pleased. This is the real meaning of the Prophet.
    Some read the sentence negatively "Are not these places better
than your kingdoms?" But this is not consistent with the Prophet's
words. Others attend not to the object of the Prophet; for they
think that the blessings of God are here compared, as though he
said, "God deals more liberally with you than with the Chaldeans,
the Assyrians, and the neighboring nations." For Calneh was situated
in the plain of Babylon, as it is evident from Gen. 10; and Hamath
was also a celebrated city, mentioned in that chapter, and in many
other places; and Gath was a renowned city of the Philistines. In
this opinion therefore interpreters mostly agree; that is, that
there is set forth here God's bounty to the Jews and Israelites,
seeing that he had favored them with a rich and fertile country, and
preferred them to other nations. But this view seems not to me to be
the correct one; for when a comparison is made between Calneh and
Jerusalem, Babylon was no doubt the more fruitful and the more
pleasant country, as we learn from all histories. The Prophet then
does not speak here of the ancient condition of these places, but
shows, as I have already said, that it availed these cities nothing,
that they were wealthy, that they were fortified by all kinds of
defenses; for God, at last, executed vengeance on them. Hence the
Prophet declares that the same was now nigh the Jews and the
Israelites.
    "What will hinder the hand of God," he says, "from delivering
you to destruction? For if men could have arrested God's wrath by
any fortresses, certainly Calneh and Hamath, and Gath, would have
resisted by their forces; but the Lord has yet executed his
vengeance on these cities, though fortified; your confidence then is
nothing but infatuation, which deceives you." Jeremiah uses a
similar language, when he says, 'Go to Shiloh,' (Jer. 7: 12.) He
certainly does not remind the Jews, that the Lord had more
splendidly adorned them than Shiloh; but he had quite a different
thing in view. Shiloh had indeed been eminent, for it had long
afforded a dwelling to the ark of the covenant; the sanctuary of God
had been there. But at that time the place was deserted; and
Jeremiah sets before the eyes of the people its sad desolation, that
they might know that they ought to dread the same event, except they
repented; for if they hardened their necks, nothing could prevent
God from dealing with them as he did before with the inhabitants of
Shiloh.
    We now then perceive the meaning of the Prophet, when he says,
"Go and pass into Calneh, and see". In bidding them to see, he no
doubt refers to the dreadful change which had taken place there. For
Calneh had been a strongly fortified city, and possessed supreme
power; and the neighboring country was also no less pleasant than
fruitful: but it was now a solitary place; for Babylon, as it is
well known, had swallowed up Calneh. Since then the place afforded
such a spectacle, the Prophet rightly says, "Pass over into Calneh,
and see"; that is consider, as in a mirror, what men can gain by
their pride and haughtiness, when they harden themselves against
God: for this was the cause of destruction to that celebrated city.
    "From thence, he says, go to Hamath", "rabah", the great; which
was a well-known city of Assyria; and see there, "How has it
happened that a city so famous was entirely overthrown, except that
the Lord could not endure so great a perverseness? As they had
abused his patience, he at length executed his vengeance. The same
thing also happened to your neighbors." For the Jews and the
Israelites were not far distant from Gath. Now then since there were
so many evidences of God's wrath before their eyes, justly does the
Prophet here inveigh against their want of thought, inasmuch as they
feared not God's judgment, which was nigh at hand.
    Are they then better? that is, is the condition of these cities
better than that of the two kingdoms, Judah and Israel? and then,
"Is their border larger than your border?" They have indeed been
reduced to such straits, that they even pay tribute for their
houses, whereas formerly they occupied a wide extent of country, and
ruled, as it were, with extended wings, far and wide: but God has
taken away those territories: for all these cities are become
tributaries. See, he says, Is their border larger than your border?
It now follows -

Amos 6:3
Ye that put far away the evil day, and cause the seat of violence to
come near;

    The Prophet here reproves the Jews and Israelites for another
crime, - that they had often provoked God's wrath, and ceased not by
their sins to call forth new punishments, and in the meantime
rejected, through their haughtiness and obstinacy, all his
threatening, as if they were vain, and would never be executed on
them. We must ever remember what I have said before, - that the
Prophet speaks not here of the whole people, but of the chiefs; for
the expression, that they drew nigh the throne of iniquity could not
have been applied to the common people. This discourse then was
addressed particularly to the judges and counselors, and those who
were in power in both kingdoms, in Judah as well as in Israel.
    But it is a remarkable saying, that they "drove far off the
evil day, while they drew nigh the throne of iniquity", or of
violence; as though he said, "Ye seek for yourselves a fever by your
intemperance, and yet ye drive it far off, as drunken men are wont
to do, who swallow down wine without any moderation; and when a
physician comes or one more moderate, and warns them not to indulge
in excess, they ridicule all their forebodings: 'What! will a fever
seize on me? I am wholly free from fever; I am indeed accustomed to
drink wine.'" Such are ungodly men, when they provoke God's wrath as
it were designedly, and at the same time scorn all threatening, as
though they were safe through some special privilege. We now then
see what the Prophet had in view by saying, that they drove far the
evil day, and yet drew nigh the throne of iniquity. He means, that
they drew nigh the throne of iniquity, when the judges strengthened
themselves in their tyranny, and took the liberty to steal, to rob,
to plunder, to oppress. When therefore they thus hardened themselves
in all kinds of licentiousness, they then drew nigh the throne of
iniquity. And they put away the evil day, because they were touched
by no alarm; for when the Prophets denounced God's vengeance, they
regarded it as a fable.
    In short, Amos charges here the principal men of the two
kingdoms with two crimes, - that they ceased not to provoke
continually the wrath of God by subverting and casting under foot
all equity, and by ruling the people in a tyrannical and haughty
manner - and that, in the mean time, they heedlessly despised all
threatening, prolonged time, and promised impunity to themselves:
even when God seriously and sharply addressed them, they still
thought that the evil day was not nigh. Passages of this kind meet
us everywhere in the Prophets, in which they show their indignation
at this kind of heedlessness, when hypocrites putting off every
feeling of grief, as though they had fascinated themselves, laughed
to scorn all the Prophets, because they thought that the hand of God
was far removed from them. Thus they are spoken of by Isaiah, as
saying, 'Let us eat and drink, since we must die,' (Isa. 23: 13.)
They indeed thought that the Prophets did not seriously threaten
them; but they regarded the mention of a near destruction as an
empty bugbear. We now then understand what the Prophet meant. It
follows -

Amos 6:4
That lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their
couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of
the midst of the stall;
    
    Amos still pursues the reproof we have noticed at the beginning
of the chapter, - that the chief men, of whom he speaks, cast away
from them all cares and anxieties, and indulged in pleasures, while
the whole country was miserably distressed. We must ever bear in
mind what I have already said, - that luxury is not simply
reprehended by the Prophet, as some incorrectly think, without
sufficiently considering what is said, for it is not what the
Prophet treats of; but he upbraids the Israelites for setting up an
iron neck against God's judgments, yea, for shamelessly trifling
with God, while he was endeavoring to lead them by degrees to
repentance. The Prophet complains that nothing availed with them.
    He then says, first, that they slept on ivory beds. To use
ivory beds was not in itself bad, except that excess is ever to be
condemned; for, when we give up ourselves to pomps and pleasures, we
certainly are not then free from sin: indeed, every desire for
present things, which exceeds moderation, is ever justly
reprehensible. And when men greedily seek splendor and display, or
become ambitious and proud, or are given to delicacies, they are
guilty of vices ever condemned by God. But it might be, that one
used an ivory bed, who was yet willing to lie on the ground: for we
know that there was then a great abundance of ivory, and that it was
commonly used in Asia. Italy formerly knew not what it was to use a
bed of ivory, that is, before the victory of Lucius Scipio: but
after the king Antiochus was conquered, then Italy freely used ivory
beds and fineries; and thus luxury broke down their courage and
effeminated them.
    I will come now to our Prophet: it might have been that ivory
was not then so valuable in Judea: they might then have used ivory
beds without blame. But Amos ever regards the miseries of those
times. The rich then ought to have given up all their luxuries, and
to have betaken themselves to dust and ashes, when they saw that God
was incensed with them, when they saw that the fire of his vengeance
was kindled. We now then perceive why Amos was so indignant against
those who slept on ivory beds.
    He adds, "And who extend themselves on their beds": for
"sarach" is properly to extend; it means also to become fetid; and
further, it means to be superfluous; and therefore some render the
words, "upon ivory beds and superfluities;" but this is strained,
and agrees not with what follows, upon their couches. The Prophet
then, I have no doubt, points out here the manners of those who so
heedlessly indulged themselves: "Ye extend," he says, "your legs and
your arms on your couches, as idle men, accustomed to indulgences,
are wont to do. But the Lord will awaken you in a new way; his
scourges ought to have roused you, but ye remain asleep. Hence,
since God could not terrify you by his rods, nothing more remains
but to draw you forth against your will to be punished." This was
the reason why the Prophet said that they extended themselves on
their couches.
    "Ye eat also the lambs from the flock, and the calves from the
midst of the rich pasture", or of the stall. I prefer taking
"marbek" for folds. Since then they loved fat meat, the Prophet
reproves this luxury: he had indeed in view, as it has been already
said, the then calamitous time; for if the rich had in their usual
way feasted, and had even taken fat meat, they would not have
deserved so severe a punishment: but when the Lord called them to
mourning, and when the signals of his wrath spread horror all
around, it was a stupidity not to be endured, for them to continue
their indulgences, which they ought, on the contrary, to have
renounced. Indeed, this passage agrees with that of Isaiah, to which
I have already referred. It now follows -

Amos 6:5
That chant to the sound of the viol, [and] invent to themselves
instruments of music, like David;
    
    The word "parat" means to divide; so some explain it, and
derive it from the clusters which remain after the vintage, because
there are not then thick grapes, but a cluster here and there, and a
great distance between: hence they think that the participle
"haportim" is to be taken here metaphorically as meaning to divide
by marks, as music has its various notes; for except there be a
distinct variety in singing, the sound would be confused, and would
produce no pleasing effect. "Who sing then with the harps and have
invented for themselves, after the example of David, musical
instruments".
    The Prophet still continues his discourse, and shows that these
men lived sumptuously; as though they did not belong to the common
class, they delighted themselves, against God's will, not only in
the common mode of living, but even sought new pleasures, as if they
were continually at marriage feasts, or celebrating birthdays. As
then they had no season for mourning, they pursued their own
indulgences; and this is what the Prophet now reprehends. If then
any one thinks that music is in these words condemned, he is much
deceived, as it appears from the context. Indeed, the Prophet never
dealt so rigidly with that people, but he ever kept to this point -
that they were extremely torpid, nay, destitute of common sense, who
perceived not that God showed himself angry with them, in order that
they might flee immediately to the standard of repentance and humbly
deprecate, with mourning, the wrath of God, as they ought to have
done. It was therefore meet ever to set before them Gods wrath,
which ought to have humbled the Jews and the Israelites, inasmuch as
they ever obstinately set up against God their own indifference.
    In saying that after the example of David they invented for
themselves musical instruments, he no doubt greatly aggravated their
sin by this comparison: for it is not likely that they had abused
this pretext, as hypocrites do, who are wont to boast of the
examples of the saints, when they seek to disguise their own vices,
- "What!" some will say, "Did not David use musical instruments?"
Others will say, "Had not Solomon very splendid palaces?" And some
will add, "Had not Abraham a company of servants in his house?" So
every one lays hold on what may avail for an excuse: and thus the
examples of the saints are absurdly referred to by many. But it
seems not probable that this was done by those whom Amos now
addresses: but, on the contrary, he appears sharply to reprove them
for provoking God's wrath by self indulgence, and for manifesting
their perverseness, while David employed musical instruments in the
exercises of religion, to raise up his mind to God. no doubt, David,
when in a peaceful state, after having been delivered from all
dangers, could also amuse himself: but he applied musical
instruments to another purpose - to sound forth the praises of God
in the temple, that thereby he and other godly persons might
together elevate their thoughts to a religious devotion. While David
then, even in a state of peace and prosperity, did not allow his
mind to become sunk in vain self-indulgences, these men, when God
appeared angry, when he spread terror by so many tokens of his
vengeance, yet dared contumaciously to follow their own ways, so
that they left off nothing of their usual pomp and of their
accustomed pleasures.
    We now see the design of the comparison which the Prophet
makes: He aggravates, I have no doubt, their sin, because they
regarded not the example of David, but transferred musical
instruments to serve the purpose of gross and beastly indulgences,
and thus they did when God was opposed to them, when he had begun to
terrify them by his vengeance. Let us proceed -

Amos 6:6,7
That drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief
ointments: but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.
Therefore now shall they go captive with the first that go captive,
and the banquet of them that stretched themselves shall be removed.
    
    Amos now reproaches the chiefs of both kingdoms for drinking
wine in bowls, that is, in vessels either elegantly formed or
precious. Some think "silver" to be understood "in vessels of
silver:" but there is no need of regarding any thing as understood
in the Prophet's words. The meaning is, that those men were
sufficiently convicted of brutish stupidity, inasmuch as they did
not forsake their indulgences, when God manifested his terrible
vengeance. Since God then did thus what tended to humble them, their
madness and blindness were conspicuous enough; for they indulged
themselves, they drank wine according to their usual custom, when
they ought to have betaken themselves, as we have said, to fasting,
lamentation, and mourning, to sackcloth and ashes.
    They drank "wine in bowls", and further, they anointed
themselves  with the chief ointments". Christ, we know, was anointed
at least twice, (Luke 7: 38; Matth. 26: 7;) and this practice was
not blamed in David, nor in king Hezekiah, nor in others. Since then
anointing was not in itself sinful, we see that the Prophet must
have something particular in view. He meant to show, that when God
manifested tokens of his wrath, nothing then remained for those who
were conscious of having done evil, but humbly to abstain, like
guilty persons, from all indulgences, that they might, by fasting
and mourning, excite the mercy of God: as the Israelites had not
done this, the Prophet expostulated with them. There is no need of
seeking, any other interpretation of this place.
    For he immediately subjoins, that they "grieved not for the
bruising of Joseph". These words are to be read in connection with
the former, and ought to be applied to the whole discourse. The
Prophet then does not specifically blame the Jews and Israelites
because they drank wine in bowls, because they anointed themselves
with the best and most precious ointment, because they reposed on
ivory beds, because they extended themselves on their couches,
because they ate the best meat; but because they securely indulged
in such delights, and grieved not for the distress of their
brethren, for God had miserably afflicted the whole kingdom before
their eyes. How much had four tribes already suffered? and how much
the whole land and those who lived in the country? Ought God to have
spared any longer these chiefs? It is indeed certain, that those who
were still free from these calamities were especially culpable.
Since then they did not consider the wrath of God, which was evident
enough before their eyes, it was a proof of stupidity wholly insane,
and showed them who still indulged themselves to have been utterly
besides themselves.
    We now then understand the full meaning of the Prophet; and
hence he says, "They shall emigrate at the head of the emigrants",
that is, "when there shall be an emigration, they shall be the first
in order of time. I have hitherto indulgently spared you; but as I
see that you have abused my forbearance, ye shall certainly be the
forerunners of others; for ye shall go first into captivity. And my
rigor shall begin with you, because I see that I have hitherto lost
all my labour in attempting, kindly and paternally to call you to
repentance. Ye shall now then migrate at the head of the emigrants."
    "And come shall the mourning of those who extend themselves,
"seruchim"; that is, "Ye indeed lie down, (as he had said before,)
ye extend yourselves on your couches; but mourning shall come to
you. Ye think that you can escape punishment, when ye repose quietly
on your beds; but though your chambers be closed, though ye move not
a finger, yet mourning shall come to you." We now see the connection
between the words, mourning and resting in idleness and indulgence.
The word "sarach" means indeed properly to recumb; and hence some
render the passage, "Mourning shall rest on you:" but the more
received meaning is, Mourning shall come on you while recumbing.
Though then they stretched out themselves on their beds, that they
might pleasantly and softly recumb and rest themselves, yet mourning
would come to them, that is, would enter into their chambers.

Prayer.
    
Grant, Almighty God, that since thou showest thyself at this day to
be justly offended with us, and our own consciences reprove us,
inasmuch as dreadful tokens appear, by which we may learn how much
and in how many ways we have provoked thy wrath, -  O grand, that we
may be really touched with the consciousness of our evils, and being
afflicted in our hearts, may be so humbled, that without any outward
affliction, we may wholly submit ourselves to be reproved by thee,
and at the same time flee to that mercy which is laid up for us, and
which thou daily offerest to us in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.


Lecture Sixty-second.

Amos 6:8
The Lord GOD hath sworn by himself, saith the LORD the God of hosts,
I abhor the excellency of Jacob, and hate his palaces: therefore
will I deliver up the city with all that is therein.
    
    God here declares that he would not desist, because he had
hitherto loaded his people with many benefits: for he had now
changed his purpose, so that he would no longer continue his favors.
And this was designedly added by the Prophet; for hypocrites, we
know, grow hardened, when they consider what dignity had been
conferred on them; for they think their possessions to be firm and
perpetual: hence they become haughty towards God. Since then
hypocrites act thus foolishly, the Prophet justly says that it would
avail them nothing, that they had hitherto excelled in many
endowments for God no longer regarded their excellency.
    The word "ga'on" means in Hebrew pride and also excellency; but
it is to be taken here in a good sense, as it is in many other
places. In Isaiah 2, it cannot be taken otherwise than for glory,
for it is applied to God. So also in Psalm 47: 'The glory of Jacob,
whom I loved; he had fixed the inheritance of God.' The gifts of God
ever deserve praise: hence the Prophet in this place inveighs not
against pride; but, on the contrary, he shows that the Israelites
were deceived; for they set up their excellency and nobility in
opposition to God, as though they were to be thus exempt from all
punishment. God then says that he had now rejected this excellency,
which yet was his gift; but as the Israelites had abused his
benefits, they were therefore to be esteemed of no account. The
meaning then is, - that there is no acceptance of persons before
God, that the dignity which had been conferred on the people of
Israel was now of no moment; for it was a mere mask: they were
unworthy of adoption, they were unworthy of the priesthood and
kingdom. It was then the same as if the Prophet had said, "I will
judge you as the common people and heathens; for your dignity, of
which ye are stripped, is now of no account with me." They had
indeed long before departed from God; they were therefore wholly
unworthy of being owned by God as his inheritance.
    I detest then the excellency of Jacob, and his palaces; that
is, all the wealth with which they have been hitherto adorned. But
the Prophet does not take either palaces or excellency in a bad
sense; on the contrary, he shows that God's blessings are no
safeguards to the wicked, so as to avoid the judgment which they
deserve.
    He afterwards adds, "I will deliver up the city and its
fulness"; that is, "Though ye are now full of wealth, I will empty
you of all your abundance". Hence, "I will deliver up the city
together with its fulness", that is, its opulence.
    But that this threatening might not be slighted, the Prophet
confirms it by interposing an oath. Hence he says, that God had
sworn. And as we know that God's name is precious to him, it is
certain that it was not in vain adduced here, but on account of the
hardness and contumacy of those who were wont to set at nought a11
the prophecies, and were wont in particular to regard as nothing all
threatenings. This was the reason why the Prophet wished thus to
ratify what he had said: it was, that hypocrites might understand
that they could not escape the vengeance which he had denounced. The
form o, swearing, as it is, may seem apparently improper; but God in
this place puts on the character of man, as he does often in other
places. He swears by his soul, that is, by his life, as though he
were one of mankind. But we ought to accustom ourselves to such
forms, in which God familiarly accommodates himself to our
capacities: for what Hilary philosophizes about the soul, as though
God the Father swore by his own wisdom, is frivolous: that good man
certainly exposed his own doctrine to ridicule, while he was
attempting to refute the Arians. "God the Father, he says, swears by
his own wisdom. Now he who is wont to swear by himself, could not
swear by an inferior; but wisdom is the only begotten Son of God:
hence it follows, that the Son is equal to the Father."  These
things at first sight seem plausible; but they are puerile trifles.
    Let it then be observed, that God borrows from men this mode of
swearing; as though he said, "If men be believed when swearing by
their life, which yet is evanescent, of how much greater weight must
that oath be, by which I pledge my own life?"  Since God thus
speaks, surely the whole world ought to tremble. We now apprehend
the Prophet's design. Let us go on -

Amos 6:9
And it shall come to pass, if there remain ten men in one house,
that they shall die.
    
    The Prophet here amplifies the calamity, which was nigh the
people; as though he had said, that God would not now take moderate
vengeance on that reprobate people, for he did nothing by dealing
moderately with them: there was therefore nigh at hand the heaviest
vengeance, which would reduce the people to nothing. This is the
import of the Prophet's words when he says, that "ten, if remaining
in the same house, would die". But in naming ten survivors, he
intimates that a slaughter had preceded, which had taken away either
the half or at least some part of the family, since ten remained. At
the same time this number shows how severe and dreadful a judgment
of God awaited that people, that "ten" would be taken away together.
But it rarely happens, even when a direful pestilence prevails, that
so numerous a family entirely perishes; when three out of four, or
six or five out of eight, are taken away, it is a diminution which
usually greatly terrifies men: but when ten are taken away together,
and no one is left, it is an evidence of an awful vengeance.
    We see then that the Prophet here denounces on the people utter
ruin, for they could not be reformed by milder punishments: when God
tried to recall them to a sane mind, he effected nothing. There was
therefore no remedy for their desperate diseases: it was hence
necessary entirely to take away those who were thus incurable.
Perish then shall the ten, who shall remain in one house. It follows
-

Amos 6:10
And a man's uncle shall take him up, and he that burneth him, to
bring out the bones out of the house, and shall say unto him that
[is] by the sides of the house, [Is there] yet [any] with thee? and
he shall say, No. Then shall he say, Hold thy tongue: for we may not
make mention of the name of the LORD.
    
    In the beginning of the verse the Prophet expresses more
clearly what he had just said, - that the pestilence would be so
severe as to consume the whole family: for when he speaks of an
uncle coming to bury the dead, he shows, that unless neighbors
performed their duty, bodies would remain without the honor of a
burial: but this never happened, except during extreme devastation;
for though the pestilence destroyed many in the same city, there
were yet always some who buried the dead. When therefore it was
necessary for uncles to perform this office, it was evident how
great the calamity would be. This the Prophet meant to express in
these words, "His uncle shall take him away"; that is, his uncle
shall take away each of the dead. But this office, being servile, as
I have said, was wont to be committed to mercenaries; and when a
father or an uncle was constrained to do this, it was a proof of
great confusion.
    An uncle then shall come and take him away. "Sharaph" means to
burn; it is written here with "samech", but the change of "shin"
into "samech" is well known. Hence, many render the words, "and
shall burn him in order to take away his bones"; and this
interpretation seems to suit the place. Then it is, "he will burn
him, that he may carry his bones out of the house". Dead bodies, as
it is well known, were usually carried forth and burnt publicly. But
as one man could not carry out a dead body especially an old man,
and Amos mentions an uncle, he says, that another plan would be
necessary, that the uncle would burn his nephews at home, that he
might have the bones only to carry out, as he could not carry forth
their dead bodies. This seems to me to be the real meaning of the
Prophet. For they who explain this of a maternal uncle, have no
reason on their side: it was enough to mention one only when men
were so few. If indeed a maternal uncle be added to the paternal
one, a great number of men would seem to have been still remaining.
But when mention is made only of one uncle, this circumstance agrees
best with what I have stated. An uncle shall come, he shall take
him; and then, he will burn him that he may carry forth his bones.
The bones could be easier carried out when the body was burnt, for
the burden was not so heavy. We now then perceive the meaning of the
words.
    It follows, "And he will say to him who shall be at the sides
of the house". By the sides of the house, understand the next
dwellings. He will then inquire, "Is there yet any one with thee?"
that is, Is any one of thy neighbors alive? We cannot indeed explain
the sides of the house as meaning the inner parts of the house,
except one understands a reference to be made to strangers or
lodgers, as though the Prophet said, "If there will be any lodger,
he will seek retreat in some corner of the house." Then the uncle,
when the whole house had become desolate, should he by chance meet a
guest, says, "Is there any one with thee? And he shall say, There is
an end", or a decay. Though there be some ambiguity in the words, we
yet see what the Prophet meant, and what he had in view. He indeed
confirms what he had previously declared in the person of God, which
was, - that though ten remained alive in one house, yet all of them
would die together, so that there would not be, no not one survivor;
for the uncle, on inquiring respecting his nephews, whether any
remained, would hear, that there was an end, that all had perished
together. Now, the design of these words was to strike men with
terror; for we know how great their stupidity is, as long as God
spares them: but when they feel his hand, they then dread, though
they are not moved by any threatenings. This, then, is the reason
why the Prophet denounces here at large on the Israelites the
dreadful judgment, which they would not dread, being, as we have
seen, extremely secure and thoughtless.
    It follows, "And he will say; Be silent; for it is not meet to
mention the name of Jehovah". This place is differently explained.
Some think that their extreme wickedness is here noticed, that those
who died, even in their last moments, would not mention the name of
God. They thus then expound the words, - "Be silent," as though it
were the expression of one indignant or of one who denied God. Be
silent, then; for they remembered not the name of God, that is,
those whom God would have humbled, repented not of their
perverseness; even death itself could not bring them to the right
way.  Others give this exposition: "Be silent, for it is not meet to
mention the name of God"; that is, "What can God's name do to us?
for we abhor it as a bad and an unhappy omen; for God brings us no
joy". The wicked dread the name of God, and wish it to be wholly
obliterated. But it seems to me that the Prophet's design is
another, which interpreters have not sufficiently weighed. We first
find that the hypocrites, whom he reproves, boasted of God's name;
for they said in adversity that it was the day of the Lord, as
though they expected a change for the better. The Prophet now says,
that the time would come when this boasting would cease, for they
would perceive that God was offended with them, and they would no
longer falsely pretend his name, as they had been wont to do. There
is then a contrast to be understood between what is here said, and
what is said in a former verse. The Prophet had previously inveighed
against their rash vaunting, when they pretended the name of God
without any shame, "O! we are God's people, we are a holy nation, we
are God's heritage". As, then, they were become thus arrogant, and
yet had cast away God far from them, the Prophet now says, "These
delusions shall then cease, by which ye now deceive yourselves; God
will not suffer you wickedly to abuse his name, as we have ever
hitherto done; and ye still go on in this iniquity. Ye shall at that
time," he says, "be silent respecting God's name; yea, it will be a
dread to you."
    We now apprehend the Prophet's object: he means that such would
be the grievousness of this last calamity, that the Israelites would
really find that God was an enemy incensed against them, so that
they would cast aside the false glorying which filled them with
pride; yea, that they would dread the very name of God, for they
would know that nothing would be better for them than to be hid from
his presence. As it is said of the reprobate, 'They will say to the
mountains, Cover us; and to the hills, Bury us,' (Rev. 6: 16 ) so
also in this place, the Prophet says, that when hypocrites shall be
struck and seriously frightened by God's judgments, their false
vauntings will continue no longer; for they would find that to be
near God is to be near destruction. Be silent, then, for there is no
reason for us to remember the name of Jehovah. It follows -

Amos 6:11
For, behold, the LORD commandeth, and he will smite the great house
with breaches, and the little house with clefts.
    
    This verse is added only to confirm the former sentence. The
Prophet indeed intimates, that the common people, as well as the
chiefs, in vain trusted in their quiet state; for the Lord would
destroy them all together, from the highest to the lowest. Behold,
Jehovah, he says, commands &c.; by using the word commands, he
means, that God had many reasons why he should take away and destroy
them all. But he goes farther than this, and intimates that their
destruction was dependent on the sole will of God; as though he
said, "Though the Lord may not send for ministers of vengeance,
though he may not prepare great forces, yet his word only, whenever
it shall go forth, will consume you all." We now then perceive what
the Prophet means by the word "commands."
    He afterwards adds, "He will smite the great house with
confusions", or, according to some, with breaking. "Rasas" means
properly to mingle. The Prophet therefore, I doubt not, refers here
to those dreadful falls which commonly happen to great and splendid
palaces. When a cottage is overturned so great a ruin is not
occasioned by its weight; nay, when its ruin begins to appear,
fragments fall down one after another, so that the whole work falls
without any violence. This, I say, is the case with small and common
houses; but when there is a great building, its downfall is
tremendous. I am therefore inclined to render the word "confusion,"
and the difference between small and great houses will then be more
evident. Great houses then shall be smitten with confusions, but
small houses shall be smitten with fissures or clefts. But yet, as I
have already reminded you, the Prophet means that there would be a
ruin, both to the principal men and to the common people, so that
they would all perish, from the least to the greatest. We hence
learn how great was the corruption of that people; for God punishes
none but the wicked. It then follows that equity was everywhere
subverted and that all orders of men were become vicious and
corrupt. It follows -

Amos 6:12
Shall horses run upon the rock? will [one] plow [there] with oxen?
for ye have turned judgment into gall, and the fruit of
righteousness into hemlock:
    
    This verse interpreters misrepresent; for some think that the
Prophet, by these figurative expressions, means, that the people
were wholly unprofitable as to any thing good; as some one says,
"The slothful ox wishes for the saddle, the horse wishes to plough."
They therefore suppose that this is the meaning of the words, "Ye
are no more fitted to lead a good life than a horse is to run on a
rock, or an ox to plough on a rock." Others think that the Prophet
complains that the order of things was subverted as though he said,
"Ye have alike confounded all equity government, and justice. In
short, ye have subverted all right; as when one tries to ride
swiftly over a high rock, or attempts to plough there, which is
contrary to the nature of things: ye are therefore become monsters."
Others, again, understand that the Prophet here complains that he
had lost all his labour; for he had been singing, according to the
common proverb, to the deaf. "What do I effect as to this iron
generation? It is the same as if one tried to ride on the rock, to
mount a rock on a swift horse; or as if one attempted to plough
there; both which are impossible. So now, when I address stupid men,
there is no fruit to my labour, and no advantage is gained."
    But let us see whether a fitter and a more suitable meaning can
be elicited. We have already observed how secure the Israelites
were; for they thought that God was, in a manner, bound to them, for
he had pledged his faith to be a father to them. This adoption of
God puffed up their hearts. The Prophet now reproves this
presumptuous security; and, in a fitting manner, "Can a horse," he
says, "run on a rock? and can an ox plough in a stony place? So
there is not among you a free course to God's blessings. Ye ought
indeed to have been the vineyard and the field of the Lord; justice
and judgment ought to have reigned among, you but "ye have turned
judgment into gall" ("r'osh", which is variously taken, but as to
the sense it matters but little,) "ye have then turned judgment into
gall, and righteousness into hemlock". Since then ye are so
perverse, a way for God's blessings is doubtless closed up. It
cannot be that the Lord will act towards you in a manner like
himself; for he must necessarily be refractory towards the
refractory, as he is gentle towards the gentle". The Prophet seems
to me to mean this and if any one impartially considers the whole
verse, he will easily find out the truth of what I have stated,
namely, that the Prophet here reproves the supreme haughtiness of
the Israelitic people, who thought God bound to them though, at the
same time, they, as it were, designedly provoked his wrath. "Ye
think", he says, "that God will be always propitious to you; whence
is this confidence? Is it because he has adopted you, because he
made a covenant with your fathers? True he has done so; but what
sort of covenant was it? What was engaged on your part? Was it not
that ye would be perfect before him? But ye have turned judgment
into gall, and righteousness into hemlock. Since then ye are thus
covenant-breakers, what can God now do? Do you wish him to proceed
in the same course, and to bestow on you his blessings? Ye do not
allow them to be bestowed. For ye are become like craggy rocks. How
can God proceed in his course? how can he continue his benefits to
you? He can certainly no more do so than a horse, however nimble he
may be, can run swiftly on a rock or an ox plough on a rock."  We
now understand what the Prophet means in this place. A confirmation
of this view now follows, and from this connection the truth of what
I have stated will become more evident.

Amos 6:13
Ye which rejoice in a thing of nought, which say, Have we not taken
to us horns by our own strength?

    This verse will seem better connected with the last, if we bear
in mind the view to which I have referred: for the Prophet inveighs
again against the careless contempt with which the Israelites were
filled. "Ye rejoice, he says, in a thing y of nought". A thing of
nought he calls those fallacies, by which they were wont to deceive,
not only others, but also their own selves. For hypocrites not only
falsely pretend the name of God, but also deceive themselves by self
flatteries, when they arrogate to themselves the name of Church, and
the empty title of adoption and other things. We see this to be the
case at this day with the Papists, who are puffed up with nothing;
who not only with sacrilegious audacity twist the Word of God
against us, that they may appear to be the true Church, but also
harden themselves: and though they are ill at ease with themselves,
they yet lull themselves asleep by such deceptions as these, "God
could not have suffered his Church to err; we have indeed succeeded
the apostles: and though there are among us many vices and
corruptions, yet God abides with us; and all who think not with us
are schismatic; nay, though we may be supported by no reasons, yet
their defection is not to be borne with. Let us then continue in our
own state, for the Lord approves of our hierarchy." Thus the Papists
not only deal in trifles to deceive the ignorant, but also harden
themselves against God. Such was the blindness of the people of
Israel. Hence the Prophet here reproves them, because they rejoiced
in nothing; 'In no word,' he says, for so it is; but it means that
they rejoiced in nothing; for they involved themselves in mere
fallacies, and thus set up their empty delusions in opposition to
God and his judgments.
    "Who say, have we not in our own strength raised up for
ourselves horns?" Horns, we know are taken in Hebrew for eminence,
for strength, for elevation, or for any sort of defense. Hence the
expression means the same as though they had said, "Are we not more
than sufficiently fortified by our own strength?" It is however
certain that they did not say this openly; but as the Prophet
possessed the discernment of the Holy Spirit, he penetrated into
their hearts and brought out what was hid within. We indeed know
this to be the power of the word, as the apostle teaches in the
fourth chapter to the Hebrews: for the word partakes of the nature
of God himself, from whom it has proceeded; and as God is a searcher
of hearts, so also the word penetrates to the marrow, to the inmost
thoughts of men, and distinguishes between the feelings and the
imaginations. This spiritual jurisdiction ought therefore to be
noticed, when the Prophets allege against the ungodly such gross
blasphemies; for it is certain that they had not actually pronounced
the words used by the Prophet; but yet their pride had no other
meaning, than that they had raised horns to themselves by their own
strength. They were indeed separated from the Lord; in the meantime
they wished to abide safe through their own power. What did they
mean? They had become alienated from God, and yet they sought to be
in a state of safety, and thought themselves to be beyond any
danger. Whence came this privilege? For they certainly ought to have
sheltered themselves under God's shadow, if they wished to be safe.
But as they renounced God, and despised all his instructions, nay,
as they were manifestly his enemies, whence was this safety to come,
which they promised to themselves, except they sought to derive
their strength from themselves?
    We now perceive the Prophet's design: He reproves the
Israelites for being content with a false and empty title and for
heedlessly despising God, and for only pretending a form of religion
instead of its reality; it was this so gross a vice that he
condemned in them: and he shows at the same time, that they put on
horns by which they assailed God; for while they were separated from
him, they promised to themselves a secure and happy state. It at
length follows -

Amos 6:14
But, behold, I will raise up against you a nation, O house of
Israel, saith the LORD the God of hosts; and they shall afflict you
from the entering in of Hemath unto the river of the wilderness.
    
    At last follows a denunciation, and this is the close of the
chapter. God then after having seriously exposed the vices which
prevailed among the people of Israel, again declares that vengeance
of which he had shortly before reminded then; but with this
difference only - that God now points out the kind of punishment
which he would inflict on the Israelites. He had said before,
'Behold God commands;' and then he had spoken of calamity, but
expressed not whence that calamity would come: but he now points it
out in a special manner, "Behold he says I am raising up against
you, O house of Israel, a nation, who will straiten you from the
entrance into Hemath to the river", &c. The Prophet no doubt speaks
here of the Assyrians, and expresses in strong terms how dreadful
the war with the Assyrians would be, which was now nigh at hand; for
though large was their land and country, (and being large and
spacious it had many outlets,) yet the Prophet shows that there
would be everywhere straits, when the Lord would raise up on high
that nation. I am then stirring up a nation against you.
    He again calls the Lord, the God of hosts, for the same reason
as before, - that they might understand that all the Assyrians were
at God's disposal, and that they would stir up war whenever he gave
them a signal. The Lord then shall raise up a nation, who will
straiten you. In what place? He speaks not here of strait places,
but of a spacious country, which, as it has been stated, had many
outlets. But after the Lord had armed against them the Assyrians,
all the most spacious places were made strait to them, "Ye shall be
everywhere confined, so that there will be open no escape from
death."
    
Prayer.
    
Grant, Almighty God, that since we are extremely deaf to those so
many holy warnings by which thou continuest to recall us to thyself,
and since we ever harden ourselves against those threatenings, by
which thou terrifiest us, that thou mayest break or at least correct
our hardness, - O grant, that we may, though late, yet in time,
before final vengeance comes, attend to thy word and submit
ourselves to thee, and in a teachable spirit undertake thy yoke,
that thou mightest receive us into favor, and vouchsafe to us thy
paternal kindness, and being at length reconciled to us, thou might
grant us thy blessings, which thou hast promised to all thy
children, who are the members of thy only begotten Son our Lord.
Amen.


Chapter 7.

Lecture Sixty-third.

Amos 7:1-3
1 Thus hath the Lord GOD shewed unto me; and, behold, he formed
grasshoppers in the beginning of the shooting up of the latter
growth; and, lo, [it was] the latter growth after the king's
mowings.
2 And it came to pass, [that] when they had made an end of eating
the grass of the land, then I said, O Lord GOD, forgive, I beseech
thee: by whom shall Jacob arise? for he [is] small.
3 The LORD repented for this: It shall not be, saith the LORD.
    
    Amos shows in this chapter that God had already often deferred
the punishments which he had yet determined to inflict on the
people; and thus he reminds the Israelites of their perverseness,
inasmuch as they had abused the forbearance of God, and repented not
after a long lapse of time: for God had suspended his judgments for
this end - that they might willingly return to the right way, as he
commonly allures men by his kindness, provided they be teachable.
Since then this forbearance of God had been without fruit, Amos
reproves the Israelites, though he had also another object in view:
for ungodly men, we know, when God spares them and does not
immediately indict the punishments they deserve, laugh at them, and
harden themselves for the future, so that they fear nothing; and
when the Lord threatens, and does not instantly execute his
vengeance, they then especially think that all threatening are mere
bugbears; and therefore they harden their minds in security and
think that they can with impunity trifle with God. Inasmuch then as
this obstinacy prevailed among the Israelites, the Prophet here
shows in various ways, that in vain they gloried, and thus securely
despised the judgment of God; for though the Lord for a time had
spared them, yet the final vengeance was not far distant. This is
the sum of the whole: but such expression must be considered in its
order.
    A vision, he says, had been shown to him by the Lord; and the
vision was, that God himself had formed locusts. Yet some think
"yotser" to be a noun, and render it, creation; others, a swarm or a
troop. But these are forced expositions. The Lord then, I doubt not,
formed locusts in the Prophet's presence, which devoured all the
grass. He therefore says, "when the grass began to grow", that is,
"after the cuttings of the king". Here also expounders vary: some
think that the shearings of the king are referred to, when the king
had sheared his sheep. Others regard it as the mowing of hay; and
they say, that the best grass was then cut for the use of the king,
that he might feed his horses and his cattle. But these conjectures
have nothing well-founded in them. I therefore doubt not, but the
Prophet here calls that a royal cutting, when by a public order they
began to cut their meadows. It is indeed credible that there was
then some rule: as with us, no one begins the vintage at his own
will, but a certain regular time is observed; so those cuttings,
which were publicly done, were called royal; as the king's highway
is called that which is public. But yet the Prophet, I think, refers
under this figurative expression to the previous calamities, by
which the people had been already reduced as to their number.
    But we must supply this prophecy or vision to its proper time.
I doubt not, and I think that I can gather this from certain
considerations, that the Prophet here compares the time which had
preceded the reign of Jeroboam, the son of Joash, with the
prosperous time which followed. For when Jeroboam the Second began
to reign, the kingdom was laid waste, partly by hostile incursions,
and partly by drought and heat, by inclement weather, or by
pestilence. Since then the condition of the people, as sacred
history relates, was most miserable, hence the Prophet says, that
locusts had been shown to him, which devoured all the grass and
standing corn: for he not only says, that locusts were formed, but
also that they devoured the grass, so that nothing remained, "When
they had finished, he says, to eat the grass of the earth, then I
said, Lord Jehovah", &c. Thus then the Prophet shows that sure
tokens of God's wrath had then already appeared, and that the people
had in part been already afflicted, but yet that God had afterwards
given them time for repentance.
    Now by locusts I understand a moderate kind of punishment. We
have seen elsewhere (Joel 1) that the country had been then nearly
consumed by the locusts and the cankerworms, and the like pests. But
in this place the Prophet metaphorically designates hostile
invasions, which had not immediately laid waste the whole country
but in some measure desolated it. This was indeed manifest to all,
but few viewed it as the judgment of God, as also the Lord
complains, that the perverse regard not the hand of the smiter,
(Isa. 10) Though then the Israelites saw their land consumed, they
did not think that God was displeased with them; for ungodly men do
not willingly examine themselves nor raise their eyes to heaven,
when the Lord chastises them: for they would grow, as it were,
stupid in their calamities rather than set before themselves the
judgment of God, that they may be seriously led to repentance: this
they naturally shun almost all. Hence the Prophet says that this was
especially shown to him. The calamity then was known to all, and
evident before the eyes of the people; but the Prophet alone, by a
vision, understood that God in this manner punished the sins of the
people: at the same time, the special object of the vision was, - to
make the Israelites to know that the hand of God was withheld, as it
were, in the middle of its work. They had seen the enemies coming,
they had felt many evils; but they thought that the enemies
retreated either through good fortune or some other means. They did
not consider that God had spared them, which was the main thing. It
was therefore shown to the prophet in a vision, that God spared his
people, though he had resolved to destroy the whole land.
    And the Prophet expressly declares, that God had been pacified
through his intercession and prayer: hence appears very clearly what
I have already referred to, that is, that the Prophet condemns the
unbelieving for having perversely trifled with God; for they
regarded the threatening which they had heard from the mouth of Amos
and of others as jests. Whence was this? Because God had spared
them. The Prophet shows how this took place; "The Lord," he says,
"had at first resolved to destroy you, but yet he waits for you, and
therefore suspends his extreme vengeance, that by his kindness he
may allure you to himself; and this has been done through my
prayers: for though ye think me to be adverse to you, as I am
constrained daily to threaten you, and as a heavenly herald to
denounce war on you; I yet feel compassion for you, and wish you to
be saved. There is, therefore, no reason for you to think that I am
influenced by hatred or by cruelty, when I address you with so much
severity: this I do necessarily on account of my office; but I am
still concerned and solicitous for your safety; and of this the Lord
is a witness, and the vision I now declare to you." We now see that
God's servants had so ruled and moderated their feelings, that pity
did not prevent them from being severe whenever their calling so
required; and also, that this severity did not obliterate from their
minds the feelings of compassion. Amos, as we have already seen,
severely inveighed against the people, sharply reproved their vices,
and daily summoned irreclaimable men to the tribune it of God: as he
was so vehemently indignant on account at their vices, and as he so
sharply threatened them, he might have appeared to have forgotten
all compassion; but this place shows that he had not yet divested
himself of pity, though he faithfully discharged his office, and was
not diverted from his purpose, when he saw that he had to do with
wicked and obstinate men. He was therefore severe, because God so
commanded him; it was what his calling required; but at the same
time he pitied the people.
    Let then all teachers in the Church learn to put on these two
feelings - to be vehemently indignant whenever they see the worship
of God profaned, to burn with zeal for God, and to show that
severity which appeared in all the Prophets, whenever due order
decays, - and at the same time to sympathize with miserable men,
whom they see rushing headlong into destruction, and to bewail their
madness, and to interpose with God as much as is in them; in such a
way, however that their compassion render them not slothful or
indifferent, so as to be indulgent to the sins of men. Indeed, the
temper of mind which I have mentioned ought to be possessed, so that
they may go forth as suppliants before God, and implore pardon for
miserable and wretched men: but when they come to the people, in
their new character, that they may be severe and rigid, let them
remember by whom they are sent and with what commands, let them know
that they are the ministers of God, who is the judge of the world,
and ought not therefore to spare the people: this then is to be
attended to by us.
    Now as to the word "repent", as applied to God, let us know, as
it has been elsewhere stated, that God changes not his purpose so as
to retract what he has once determined. He indeed knew what he would
do before he showed the vision to his Prophet Amos: but he
accommodates himself to the measure of men's understanding, when he
mentions such changes. It was then the eternal purpose of God, to
threaten the people, to show tokens of his displeasure, and yet to
suspend for a time his vengeance, that their perverseness might be
the more inexcusable. But in the meantime, as this was without
advantage, he sets forth another thing - that he was already armed
to execute his vengeance. God then does not relate what he had
decreed, but what the Israelites deserved, and what punishment or
reward was due to them. When, therefore, God begins to inflict
punishment on sinners, it is as though he intended to execute fully
his vengeance; he however forms a purpose in himself, but that is
hid from us. As soon then as he lifts up his finger, we ought to
regard it as owing to his mercy, that we are not instantly reduced
to nothing; when it so happens, it is as though he changed his
purpose, or as though he withheld his hand. This then ought to be
borne in mind, when the prophet says, that God created locusts to
devour all the grass, but that he suppliantly entreated God to put
an end to this calamity. He then adds, that it repented God, not
that there was any change of mind in God, but because God suddenly
and beyond hope suspended the vengeance which was near at hand. It
shall not then be.
    With regard to the clause, Be propitious, I pray; how will
Jacob rise up, or who will raise up Jacob? it appears that the
Prophet saw no other remedy, except the Lord, according to his
infinite goodness, forgave the people, and hence he prays for
pardon.  In the meantime, he shows that he prayed for the Church,
"Lord," he says, "thy hand does not now pursue strangers, but an
elect people, thy peculiar possession:" for by the name, Jacob, the
Prophet extols the covenant which God made with Abraham and the
Patriarchs; as though he said, "O God, wilt thou be inexorable
towards the people whom thou hast chosen and adopted, of whom thou
art the Father? Remember that they are neither Babylonians, nor
Egyptians, nor Assyrians, but a royal priesthood, and thy holy and
peculiar people." And there is nothing that inclines God more to
mercy than the recollection of his gratuitous covenant, as we have
elsewhere seen.
    He then says, that Jacob was "small". He does not allege the
worthiness of Jacob, or adduce any proof of excellency, but says
that he was small; as though he said, "O Lord, thou drawest forth
now thy power against miserable creatures, who are already enfeebled
enough" for he calls him small, because he had been worn out by many
calamities: and hence I said, that reference is here made to that
miserable time, of which Scripture records, when it declares that
the free as well as the captive were reduced to extreme distress,
before Jeroboam the second began to reign. Then indeed God restored
his people; but short was that favour; for immediately after the
death of king Jeroboam, a sedition arose, which proved ruinous to
the whole kingdom: his son Zachariah, as it is well known, was slain
by Shallum, (2 Kings 15.)
    How then will Jacob rise up? Some take the verb "yakum" in a
transitive sense, "Who will raise him up?" but others think it to be
a neuter verb, "How will Jacob rise up?" that is, by what means will
Jacob rise up? as "mi" may be taken to mean, how, or by what means:
How then will Jacob rise up? But this difference has little to do
with the main point It is then enough to say, that the Prophet here
speaks of the weakness of the people, that on this account God might
be more ready to forgive them. It now follows -
    
Amos 7
4 Thus hath the Lord GOD shewed unto me: and, behold, the Lord GOD
called to contend by fire, and it devoured the great deep, and did
eat up a part.
5 Then said I, O Lord GOD, cease, I beseech thee: by whom shall
Jacob arise? for he [is] small.
6 The LORD repented for this: This also shall not be, saith the Lord
GOD.
    
    The Prophet shows that God had not once only spared the people,
but that when he was again prepared for vengeance, he still
willingly deferred it, that, if possible, the people might willingly
recover themselves: but as all were unhealable, this forbearance of
God produced no fruit. Now as to the words of the Prophet, we see
that a heavier punishment is designated by the similitude of fire,
than by what he said before when he spoke of locusts. We stated that
by locusts is to be understood ordinarily a moderate punishment, one
not so dreadful at first sight. For though the want and famine
introduced by locusts, when they consume all kinds of fruit, are
most grievous evils; yet fire sometimes strikes people with much
greater dread. Hence the Prophet shows by mentioning fire, that God
had become very indignant, having seen that the people had hardened
themselves and could not be reformed by common and usual remedies.
The Lord's usual mode of proceeding, as he declares everywhere in
Scriptures is this: At first he tries to find whether men are
capable of being healed, and applies not the most grievous
punishment, but such as may be endured; but when he perceives in
sinners hardness and obstinacy, he doubles and trebles the
punishment, yea, as he says by Moses, he increases his judgments
sevenfold (Deut. 28.) Such then was the manner which Amos now
records; for God at first created the locusts, and then he kindled a
fire, which consumed the great deep, and devoured their possession.
    The point, denoting a participial form in the word here used,
shows that they are mistaken who render "yotser" creation, of which
we have spoken before; for the point here corresponds with that in
"yotser". In both places the Lord shows himself to be the author of
punishment, which is wont to be ascribed to chance; for men imagine
that evils proceed from something else rather than from God. Hence
it was necessary for this to be distinctly expressed, as the Prophet
does also, when he says that locusts had been created by God, and
that fire had been kindled by him.
    God then "called to contend by fire". It was not without a
design that the Prophet uses the verb "ruv", which yet expositors
have not duly weighed. For he indirectly condemns the hardness of
the people, inasmuch as the Lord had already not only chastised the
vices of the people, but had also contended with men depraved and
obstinate: as when no justice can be obtained, a litigation becomes
necessary; so the Prophet says here, that God was coming prepared
with fire, to contend with the stubbornness of the people. The great
deep, he says, was consumed by this fire. Hence what I have already
said becomes more evident, - that a more dreadful punishment is here
described than in the first vision. The locusts devoured the grass
only but the fire penetrates into the utmost deep; it consumes and
destroys not only the surface of the earth, but burns up the very
roots, yea, it descends to the centre and consumes the whole earth.
They who render "chelek" a part, do not sufficiently attend to the
design of the Prophet, for he concludes that the surface of the
earth had been laid waste, because the very gulfs had not escaped
the burning. And when the fire reaches to the very bowels of the
earth, how could their possession stand, which was also exposed to
the heat of the sun? We see how the earth is burnt up by heat, when
the sun is scorching at Midsummer. We now perceive the Prophet's
design.
    He adds, that God was again pacified. We must ever bear in mind
the object he had in view; for ungodly men thought the Prophets to
be liars, whenever God did not immediately execute the vengeance he
had denounced: but Amos here reminds them, that when God defers
punishment, he does not in vain threaten, but waits for men to
repent; and that if they still go on in abusing his patience, they
will have at last to feel how dreadful is the vengeance which awaits
all those who thus pervert the goodness of God, who hear not God
inviting them so kindly to himself. This is the meaning. It follows
-

Amos 7
7 Thus he shewed me: and, behold, the Lord stood upon a wall [made]
by a plumbline, with a plumbline in his hand.
8 And the LORD said unto me, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A
plumbline. Then said the Lord, Behold, I will set a plumbline in the
midst of my people Israel: I will not again pass by them any more:
9 And the high places of Isaac shall be desolate, and the
sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste; and I will rise against
the house of Jeroboam with the sword.

    This vision opens more clearly to us what the Prophet meant
before, and what was the object of his doctrine: his intention was
to show the people that what they had gained by their obstinacy was
only to render God implacable, and to cause him not to spare them
any longer, as he had hitherto done. The meaning is, - "God has
hitherto borne with you according to his own goodness, promise not
to yourselves that he will ever deal in the same manner with you;
for your contumacy and waywardness has provoked him. As he sees you
to be beyond measure obstinate, he must now necessarily execute on
you final vengeance. There is therefore now no forgiveness provided
for you; but as ye are incurable, so the Lord on his part will
remain unchangeable in the rigor of his judgment, and will by no
means turn to mercy."
    Interpreters explain this vision in various ways, and refinedly
philosophize on the word, plumbline; and yet frigid are almost all
their refinements. Were I disposed plausibly to handle this passage,
I would say, that the plumbline is the law of God; for it prescribed
to his people a regular order of things, which might serve as a
plumbline; inasmuch as all things were directed according to the
best rule. I might speak thus; but I am not disposed to refine in
this manner; for I doubt not but that God meant only that this would
be the last measuring; for he would punish his people without any
remission and without any delay. We now apprehend the Prophet's
meaning: but all this will become more evident from the words of the
passage.
    "Thus he showed to me; and, behold, the Lord stood on a wall of
a plumbline". The wall of a plumbline he calls that which had been
formed by rule, as though he had said that it was a wall by a
plumbline. God then stood on a plumbline-wall, "and a plumbline, he
says, was in his hand". False then is what some interpreters say,
that a plumbline was cast away by God, because he would no more
perform the office of a mason in ruling his people. This is
frivolous; for the Prophet testifies here expressly that a plumbline
was in the hand of God.
    But that which follows has an important meaning: God asks his
Prophet, "What sees thou, Amos?" It is probable that the Prophet was
astonished at a thing so mysterious. When locusts were formed, and
when there was a contention by fire, he might have easily gathered
what God meant; for these visions were by no means ambiguous: but
when God stood on a wall with a plumbline, this was somewhat more
hard to be understood; and the probability is, that the Prophet was
made to feel much astonishment, that the people might be more
attentive to hear his vision, as we commonly apply our thoughts more
to hidden things; for we coldly attend to what we think to be easily
understood; but mysteriousness, or something difficult to be known,
sharpens our minds and attention. I do not then doubt but that God
made the Prophet for a time to feel amazed, with the view of
increasing the attention of the people. "What then dost thou see,
Amos? A plumbline", he says: but, at the same time, he knew not what
was the meaning of this plumbline, or what was its design. Then God
answers, "Behold, I set a plumbline in the midst of my people"; that
is, I fix this to be the last rule, or the final measure, "and I
will not add any more to pass by them." As God had twice leaped over
the bounds of his judgment by sparing them, he says, now that the
last end was come, "I will proceed no farther," he says, "in
forgiving them: as when a wall is formed to the plumbline, that no
part may, in the least, exceed another, but that there may be
regularity throughout so also this shall be the last order; this
measuring shall be true and just. I will pass by them no more."
This, I have no doubt, is the real meaning of the Prophet. We now
also perceive the design of the other two visions to have been to
prevent the Israelites from deceiving themselves by false
self-flatteries, because God was kind and favorable to them. He
shows that he dealt so with them, not because they were just; for
God had already begun to execute his judgments on them; and the
punishments with which they had been visited were strong evidences
of their crimes: for God is not without reasons angry with men,
especially with his chosen people. Since then they had been already
smitten once and again, the Prophet proves that they were worthy of
heavier punishments; and that punishments had been mild and
moderated, was to be ascribed, he says, to the indulgence of God,
because he was willing to forgive his people; but that the time had
now come when he would no longer pardon them; for he saw that he had
to do with irreclaimable obstinacy. This is the meaning.
    It now follows, "And destroyed shall be the high places of
Isaac, and overthrown shall be the sanctuaries (some render palaces)
of Israel; and I will rise up against the house of Jeroboam with the
sword." The Prophet here distinctly declares, that the people in
vain trusted in their temples and superstitions, for by these they
kindled the more against themselves the wrath of God. He would not
indeed have expressly threatened the high places and the temples,
unless the Israelites had provoked in this way, as I have already
said, the vengeance of God against themselves, inasmuch as they had
corrupted the true and lawful worship of God.
    "Destroyed then shall be the high places of Isaac". It may be
asked, Why does he mention here the name of Isaac, which is rarely
done by the Prophets? And there is also a change of one letter; for
the word Isaac is commonly written with "tsade", but here it is
written with "sin"; but it is well known that "sin" and "tsade" are
interchangeably used. It is, however, beyond dispute, that the
Prophet speaks here of the holy man Isaac; and the reason seems to
be plainly this, - because the Israelites absurdly pretended to
imitate their father in their superstitions; for temples, we know,
had been erected where Isaac had worshipped God, and also their
father Abraham and Jacob. Inasmuch then as the Israelites boasted of
the examples of holy fathers, the Prophet here condemns this vain
and false boasting. They who understand by the word Isaac, that the
Prophet threatens the Idumeans as well as the Israelites, have no
reason for their opinion; but the reason which I have already
mentioned is quite sufficient.
    We indeed know, that the Israelites had ever in their mouths
the examples of the fathers, like the woman of Samaria, who said to
Christ, 'Our fathers worshipped in this mountain,' (John 4: 22.) So
also the Israelites were wont formerly to allege, that the holy
patriarchs worshipped God in those places, - that God appeared in
Bethel to holy Jacob, and also that in other places altars were
built. Being armed with the examples of the fathers, they thought
them to be their shield. The case is the same with the Papists in
our day; when they hear of anything as having been done by the
fathers, they instantly lay hold on it; but these are vain excuses.
Like them were also the Israelites; hence the Prophet says, "Behold,
ye gain nothing by this fallacious pretence; for destroyed shall be
the high places of Isaac, even those which are now covered by an
honorable name: and at the same time the temples or palaces of
"Israel shall be overthrown.
    "And I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword".
We learn from this last clause that things were then, as we have
stated elsewhere, in a prosperous state in the kingdom of Israel,
though God had in various ways wasted it before Jeroboam: but they
had been ever obstinate. He afterwards restored them to a better
condition; for the state of the people greatly improved under
Jeroboam: he recovered many cities enlarged the borders of his
kingdoms and then the people, in their affluence began to grow
wanton against God. As then the Prophet thus saw that they abused
God's goodness, he denounced destruction on Jeroboam; hence he says,
Against the house of Jeroboam I will rise up with the sword; that
is, "I will begin to execute my judgment on the offspring of the
king himself; though I may spare him, yet his posterity shall not
escape my hand."
    
Prayer.
    
Almighty God, since thou so suspendest thy hand in chastising us,
that except we be wholly blind and stupid, we must acknowledge that
we are spared in order that we may willingly return to thee, and
that being allured by the gentleness of thy forbearance, we may
submit ourselves to thee in willing obedience, - O grant, that we
may not harden our hearts, nor be slow, nor slothful, nor even
backward to repent, when thou deferrest extreme punishment, but
strive to anticipate thy final vengeance, and so submit ourselves to
thee, that we may be pardoned while it is time, and so hasten to
offer our hearts whole and sincere to thee, and so repent, while
urged by extreme danger, that there may not remain any hidden
hypocrisy in our hearts, but that we may in such a way search every
faculty of our soul, that thou mayest become to us a real and
faithful witness of that integrity which thou requires of all who
return to thee to obtain pardon through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Lecture Sixty-fourth.

Amos 7
10 Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of
Israel, saying, Amos hath conspired against thee in the midst of the
house of Israel: the land is not able to bear all his words.
11 For thus Amos saith, Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel
shall surely be led away captive out of their own land.
12 Also Amaziah said unto Amos, O thou seer, go, flee thee away into
the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy there:
13 But prophesy not again any more at Bethel: for it [is] the king's
chapel, and it [is] the king's court.
    
    The Prophet here relates the device by which Satan attempted to
depress his mind, that he might not go on in the discharge of his
prophetic office. He says, that Amaziah had sent to the king to
induce him to adopt some severe measure; for he pretended that as
Amos scattered words full of sedition, and made turbulent speeches,
the affairs of the king could not be carried on, except the king in
due time prevented him: and besides, the same Amaziah said, that
nothing could be better for the Prophet than to flee into the land
of Judah, as he might live in safety there; for he had incurred
great danger in having dared to prophesy against the king. It hence
appears that Amaziah was a perfidious and cunning man, but not so
bloody as to attempt openly anything serious against the Prophet's
life; unless perhaps he thought that this could not be done, and
gave this advice, not so much through his kindness, as that the
thing was impracticable: and this second supposition is probable
from the words of the passage.
    For, in the first place the Prophet saye, that Amaziah had sent
to the king. He then tried whether he could excite the king's mind
to persecute Amos. It may be that his design did succeed: hence he
undertook what in the second place is related, that is, he called
the Prophet to himself, and tried to frighten him, and drive him by
fear from the land of Israel, that he might no longer be troublesome
to them. But we must, in the first place, notice the motive by which
this Amaziah was influenced, when he endeavored so much, by any
means possible, to banish the Prophet from the kingdom of Israel. It
is certainly not credible that he was influenced by what he
pretended to the king, that there was a danger of sedition; but it
was a pretence cunningly made. Amaziah then had a care for his own
advantage, as we see to be the case in our day with cardinals and
milted bishops who frequent the courts of princes, and do not
honestly profess what their designs are; for they see that their
tyranny cannot stand unless the gospel be abolished; they see that
our doctrine threatens to become a cold and even an ice to their
kitchens; and then they see that they can be of no account in the
world, except they crush us. And what do they at the same time
pretend? that our doctrine cannot be received without producing a
change in the whole world, without ruin to the whole civil order,
without depriving kings of their power and dignity. It is then by
these malicious artifices that they gain favor to themselves. Such
was the device of Amaziah, and such was his manoeuvre in opposing
the Prophet Amos.
    "Behold", he sags to the king, "he has conspired against thee".
"Kashar" is to bind, but, by a metaphor, it signifies to conspire:
Conspired then has Amos against thee. But who speaks? Amaziah; and
the Prophet omits not the title of Amaziah; for he says that he was
the priest of Bethel. He might have only said, "Amaziah sent to king
Jeroboam", but by mentioning that he was a priest, the Prophet shows
that Amaziah did not strive for the peace of the public, as he
pretended; and that this was therefore a fallacious pretence, for he
fought for his own Helen, that is, he fought for his own kitchen, in
short, for his living: for he would have been deprived, with
disgrace, of his priesthood, and then reduced to penury and want,
except he had driven away the Prophet Amos. Since then he saw that
such and so great an evil was nigh him except Amos was banished, he
had this object in view, and pretended another thing, and sent to
the king and said ,Amos alas conspired; and he enhances the crime,
"In the midst of the house of Israel". "This is not done," he says
"in a corners or in some obscure place; but his doctrine is heard on
all the public roads, whole cities are filled with it; in short, it
burns like fire in the very bosom, in the very midst of the kingdom;
and thou wilt soon find thy own house to be all in a flame, unless
thou applies a remedy, yea, except thou extinguishest it." We hence
see how Amaziah acted, and the reason why he so earnestly persuaded
the king to give liberty no longer to the Prophet Amos.
    With regard to what follows, - "that the land could no longer
bear his words", the sentence admits of two probable meanings. The
first is, that he said, that the people, being offended with his
turbulent doctrine, did now of themselves hate and detest the
Prophet Amos, as a seditious man. Kings are in our day stirred on in
like manner, - "Why do you delay? Your subjects desire nothing so
much as to extinguish this evil, and all of them will eagerly assist
you: ye are in the meantime idle, and your people complain of your
tardiness. They think the princes in power are unworthy of their
station, since they thus suffer the ancient rites and ordinances of
holy Mother Church to fall into decay." So they speak: and we may
imagine the words of Amaziah to have been in the same strain, - that
he stimulated the king by this artifice - that the people were
prepared to do their part. The other meaning is this, The land
cannot bear his words; that is, "If he goes on here with full
liberty to raise tumults, as he has begun, the whole kingdom will be
on the verge of ruin, for many will follow him; and when an open
sedition will arise, it cannot be checked without great difficulty.
We must therefore make every haste, lest Amos should get the upper
hand; for there is already the greatest danger." As the Pharisees
held a consultation, and said, 'Lest the Romans come and take away
our place and nation,' (John 11: 48,) so also Amaziah might have
excited the king by causing him to fear, that the land, the country,
or its inhabitants, had been disturbed by the words of Amos, and
that therefore it was time to put a stop to him. Such was the
message of Amaziah to the king.
    Now our Prophet is wholly silent as to the answer of the king:
it is therefore probable, either that the king was not much excited,
- or that he dared not openly to take away the life of Amos; for he
had probably obtained some authority among the people; and though he
was hated, yet his name as a Prophet and his office were had in
reverence, - or that the matter was by agreement arranged between
the two enemies of sound doctrine, as flatterers often gratify kings
by putting themselves in their place, and by bearing all the ill
will. However this might have been, it is certainly a probable
conjecture, that the king did not interfere, because he was so
persuaded by the priest Amaziah, or because he feared the people, or
because religion restrained him, as even the ungodly are sometimes
wont to contain themselves within the bounds of moderation; not that
they are touched by real fear towards God, or that they desire to
embrace his true worship: they wish God to be thrust down from
heaven, they wish all knowledge of religion to be obliterated; but
yet they dare not pour forth their fury. Such fear then might have
seized the mind of Jeroboam, that he did not tyrannically rage
against the Prophet Amos. But if we regard the tendency of the words
of Amaziah, he certainly wished the Prophet Amos to be immediately
visited with capital punishment; for conspiracy is a crime worthy of
death; and then, fear might have impelled the king to put the holy
Prophet immediately to death. Amaziah therefore expected more than
what he attained: and then appeared his vulpine wiliness, for he
sent for the Prophet and advised him to withdraw to the land of
Judah. Hence, as I said at the beginning, it is very probable that
Jeroboam was not excited according to the expectation of the ungodly
priest of Bethel, who at first was a cruel wild beast; but when he
could not proceed openly to destroy Amos, he put on a new character;
he became a fox, because he could do nothing as a raging lion. Hence
follows his second attempt, "And Amaziah said to Amos", &c.
    I have passed over one clause in the last verse: "Amos says, By
the sword shall Jeroboam die, and Israel, by migrating, shall
migrate from their own land". These, in short, are two heads of
accusation. Some interpreters think that Amaziah had slanderously
perverted the words of the Prophet Amos; for he did not denounce
death on king Jeroboam, but only on his people and posterity: but I
do not insist on this. It might then be, that Amaziah did not
designedly pervert the words of Amos, but only wished to excite the
ill will of the king. Die then shall Jeroboam or his posterity with
the sword, and Israel also, by migrating, shall migrate from their
own land. We hence learn, that Amaziah was not impelled only by the
last address of the Prophet Amos, but that he then discovered the
hatred which he had long harbored. Amaziah therefore had been, no
doubt, on his watch, and had heard what Amos daily taught, and when
he thought the matter ripe, he sent to the king. Having tried this
way, and found that it did not answer, he came to his second
attempt, which we are now to consider.
    Amaziah then said to Amos, - that is, after his first
proceeding disappointed him; for he did not obtain from king
Jeroboam what he expected, - then Amaziah said to Amos, "Seer, go,
flee to the land of Judah!" By saying Go, he intimates that he was
at liberty to depart, as though he said, "Why wouldest thou
willfully perish among us?" At the same time, the two clauses ought
to be joined together. He says first, Go, and then, flee. When he
says Go, he reminds him, as I have already said, that if he wished,
he might go away, as no one prevented his departure: "Go, then, for
the way is open to you." But when he says, flee, he means that he
could not long remain safe there: "Except thou provident for thy
life, it is all over with you: flee then quickly away from us, else
thou art lost." We hence see how cunningly Amaziah assailed God's
Prophet. He proposed to him an easy way of saving his life; at the
same time he urged him with the fear of danger, and declared that he
could not remain safe, except he immediately fled. These then were
the two reasons which he used as mighty engines to depress the heart
of the holy Prophet.
    He afterwards subjoins, "And eat there thy bread". This is the
third argument. He might be allowed to live in his own country, and
be supplied there with sustenance; for Amos was, as we have said,
one of the shepherds of Tekoa. He must then have arisen from the
tribe of Judah, and he had his habitation and his relations in that
kingdom. Besides, Azariah was not an ungodly king: though not one of
the most perfect, he yet respected and honored the servants of God.
Hence, by saying, Eat there thy bread, Amaziah means that there was
a safe residence for the Prophets in the kingdom of Judah, and that
they were there esteemed both by the king and by the people, and
that they might live there. This is the third argument.
    Now follows the fourth: "If thou dost object to me, and say
that thou art a Prophet, and that it is neither lawful nor right in
thee to be silent, be a prophet there. Thou knowest that prophets
are attended to in the kingdom of Judah; thou mayest then perform
thine office there, and live at liberty, and without fear." We hence
see four of the reasons by which Amaziah attempted to persuade the
Prophet Amos to leave the people of Israel, and to go to his own
kindred.
    But there follows a fifth reason: "But in Bethel prophesy no
more; for the sanctuary of the king it is, and his court". Here
Amaziah annoys the Prophet by another pretence, or he tries, at
least, to shake his courage, by intimating that it was unbecoming to
raise commotions in the kingdom of Israel, and also that, by so
doing, he offended God, because Jeroboam was a divinely appointed
king, and endued with the chief authority. Since then the king
could, by his own right, institute new modes of worship, Amaziah
here argues that it is not in the power of any one who pleased to
pull down those rites which had been universally received, and then
confirmed by a royal edict, but that they ought to be received
without any dispute. We then perceive now the import of the whole.
    But it must be noticed in this place, that we must be watchful,
not only against the open violence and cruelty of enemies, but also
against their intrigues; for as Satan is a murderer, and has been so
from the beginning, so he is also the father of lies. Whosoever then
wishes strenuously and constantly to spend his labors for the Church
and for God, must prepare himself for a contest with both: he must
resist all fears and all intrigues. We see some not so fearful,
though a hundred deaths were denounced upon them, who are yet not
sufficiently cautious when enemies craftily insinuate themselves. I
have not, therefore, said without reason, that God's servants have
need of being fortified against both; that they ought to be prepared
against the fear of death, and remain intrepid, though they must
die, and that they ought to lay down their necks, if needs be, while
performing their office, and to seal their doctrine with their own
blood; - and that, on the other hand, their ought to be prudent; for
oftentimes the enemies of the truth assail them by flatteries; and
the experience of our own times sufficiently proves this. More
danger, I know, has ever been from this quarter; that is, when
enemies attempt to terrify by such objections as these, "What is
your purpose? See, the whole world must necessarily at length be
consumed by calamities. What else do you seek, but that religion
should everywhere flourish, that sound learning should be valued,
that peace should prevail everywhere? But we see that the fiercest
war is at hand: if once it should arise, all places would be full of
calamities, savage barbarity, and cruelty, would follow, and
religion would perish: all this ye will effect by your pertinacity."
These things have often been said to us. When therefore we read this
passage, we ought to notice the arts by which Satan has been trying
to undermine the efforts of the godly, and the constancy of God's
servants.
    As to the first argument, there is no need much of dwelling
longer upon it; for every one can of himself perceive the design of
all this crafty proceeding. He says first, Seer, go. Amaziah
addresses Amos in a respectful way: he does not reproachfully call
him, either an exile, or a seditious man, or one unlearned, or a
cowherd, or a person unworthy of his office. He does not use any
such language, but calls him a seer; he concedes to him the
honorable title of a Prophet; for by the word "chozeh", he means
this "I confess thee to be God's Prophet: I grant that thou art a
Prophet, but not our Prophet; Seer, then, go." We hence see that he
left to him untouched the honor of being a Prophet, that he might
more easily creep into his favour, lest by raising a dispute at
first, there should be between them a violent contest: he therefore
avoided all occasions of contention.
    It might however have been asked him, Why he was blind? For the
office of a priest was to watch; and the Prophets were in such a
manner joined to the priests, that when God substituted Prophets in
their place, he indirectly charged them with idleness and
indifference. For why were the priests appointed? That they might be
the messengers of the Lord of hosts, as it is said by Malachi, 'The
people shall seek from the mouth of the priest my law, for he is the
messenger of the Lord of hosts,' (Mal. 2: 7.) Amaziah then ought
especially to have performed himself the Prophet's office, for he
was a priest. He was indeed, I allow, a spurious priest; but having
claimed so honorable a name, he ought to have discharged its duties:
this he did note and conceded that title to the Prophet. So now our
milted bishops are very liberal in conceding titles, "O, Mr.
Teacher, ye can indeed see and understand many things: but yet ye
ought, at the same time, to consult the peace of the community."
They call those teachers who have been invested with no public
office, but are yet under the necessity of undertaking the duties of
others, for they see that these milted bishops are dumb dogs. In a
like manner, also, did Amaziah act towards the Prophet Amos; for he
was content with his own splendor and great pomp, and with his own
riches; he lived sumptuously, and enjoyed a rich booty, and
superstitions well warmed his kitchen. He therefore easily
surrendered to others the title of a Prophet: in the meantime, he
prided himself on his priesthood.
    But as to the second argument, there was a sharper sting in it,
"Flee", he says. By flight he intimates, that it was necessary for
the Prophet to depart, though he wished to remain. So this second
reason was borrowed from necessity; for the Prophet could no longer
be borne with, if he proceeded in the free discharge of his office.
Flee then to the land of Judah, and there eat bread.
    With regard to this third reason, he seems to imply that the
Prophet Amos would be too pertinacious and too much wedded to his
own opinion, if he preferred not to live safely and quietly in his
own country, rather than to endanger his life in another land. Go
then. Where would he send him? To his own country. Why? "Thou art
here a foreigner, and sees thyself to be hated; why then dost thou
not rather return to thine own country, where thy religion
prevails?" Amaziah did not indeed address the Prophet Amos, as man
of profane men do at this day, who are less like Epicureans than
they are to swine and filthy dogs; for they object and say, "Thou
mayest return to thine own country; why hast thou come to us?" They
send us away to our own country, when they know that there is there
no safe place for us. But at that time pure religion flourished in
the land of Judah: hence Amaziah says, "Why dost thou not live with
thy own countrymen? for there are many there who will supply thee
with sustenance; the king himself will be thy friend, and the whole
people will also help thee."
    As to the fourth argument, we see what a crafty sophist is the
devil, "Be a Prophet there". Who speaks? Amaziah, who perfectly
hated the temple at Jerusalem, who would have gladly with his own
hands set it on fire, who would have gladly put to death all the
pious priests; and yet he allows to holy Amos a free liberty to
prophesy, and he allows this, because he could not immediately in an
open manner stop the holy Prophet in his course: he therefore sends
him away to a distance. We hence see that Satan, by various arts and
means, tempts the servants of God, and has wonderful turnings and
windings, and sometimes transforms himself into an angel of light,
as it is said by Paul, (2 Cor. 11: 14:) and in this place we have a
remarkable instance of this. Is not Amaziah an angel of light, when
he advises the Prophet Amos to serve God freely in his own country,
and to prophesy there, and to open his mouth in defense of God's
worship and of pure religion? provided he did not do all this in the
land of Israel. We have then in this chapter, as I have said, a
remarkable instance of the wiliness of Satan.
    Now as to the fifth argument, it is especially needful to dwell
on it. "In Bethel, he says, add no more to prophesy, for it is the
king's sanctuary, and it is the house of the kingdom". Here only
Amaziah shows what he wished, even to retain possession of his
priesthood; which he could not have done without banishing the
Prophet: for he could not contend with him in arguments. He
consulted then his own advantage by getting rid of the Prophet.
Whatever various characters therefore he assumed in the last verse,
and notwithstanding the many coverings by which he concealed
himself, the ape now, as they say, appears as the ape. Amaziah then
shows what he had in views even that he might remain quiet in the
possession of his own tyrannical powers and that Amos should no more
molest him, and pull up by the roots the prevailing superstitions:
for Amaziah was a priest, and Amos could not perform his office
without crying out daily against the temple of Bethel; for it was a
brothel, inasmuch as God was there robbed of his own honor; and we
also know that superstitions are everywhere compared to fornication.
Amaziah then now betrays his wicked intention, "In Bethel prophesy
not"; he would retain his quiet state, and wished not the word of
God to be heard there. His desire was, as we have already said, to
extinguish everywhere the light of heavenly truth; but as he could
not do this, he wished to continue at least in his own station
without any disputes, as we see the case to be in our time with the
Pope and his milted bishops. They became quite mad when they heard
that many cities and some princes made commotions in Germany, and
departed from their submission to them; but as they could not subdue
them by force, they said, "Let us leave to themselves these
barbarians; why, more evil than good has hitherto proceeded from
them; it is a barren and dry country: provided we have Spain,
France, and Italy, secured to us, we have enough; for we have
probably lost more than what we have gained by Germany. Let them
then have their liberty, or rather licentiousness; they will again
some time return, and come under our authority: let us not in the
meantime be over-anxious about them. But let not this contagion
penetrate into France, for one of our arms has been already cut off;
nor let Spain nor Italy be touched by it; for this would be to aim
at our life." Such also was this Amaziah, as it evidently appears, -
Prophesy not then in Bethel.
    And he spoke cunningly when he said, "Add no more to prophecy";
for it was the same as though he pardoned him. "See, though thou
hast hitherto been offending the king and the common feeling of the
people, I will not yet treat you with strict justice, I will forgive
thee all, let what thou hast done amiss remain buried, provided thou
'addest no more' in future." We hence see that there is emphasis in
the expression, when he says, Proceed not, or, add not; as though he
had said, that he would not inquire into the past, nor would accuse
Amos of having been seditious: provided he abstained for the future,
Amaziah was satisfied, as we may gather from his words, Add then no
more to prophesy.
    And why? Because "it is the king's sanctuary". This was one
thing. Amaziah wished here to prove by the king's authority that the
received worship at Bethel was legitimate. How so? "The king has
established it; it is not then lawful for any one to say a word to
the contrary; the king could do this by his own right; for his
majesty is sacred." We see the object in view. And how many are
there at this day under the Papacy, who accumulate on kings all the
authority and power they can, in order that no dispute may be made
about religion; but power is to be vested in one king to determine
according to his own will whatever he pleases, and this is to remain
fixed without any dispute. They who at first extolled Henry, King of
England, were certainly inconsiderate men; they gave him the supreme
power in all things: and this always vexed me grievously; for they
were guilty of blasphemy when they called him the chief Head of the
Church under Christ. This was certainly too much: but it ought
however to remain buried, as they sinned through inconsiderate zeal.
But when that impostor, who afterwards became the chancellor of that
Proserpina, who, at this day, surpasses all devils in that kingdom -
when he was at Ratisbon, he contended not by using any reasons, (I
speak of the last chancellor, who was the Bishop of Winchester,) and
as I have just said, he cared not much about the testimonies of
Scripture, but said that it was in the power of the king to abrogate
statutes and to institute new rites, - that as to fasting, the king
could forbid or command the people to eat flesh on this or that days
that it was lawful for the king to prohibit priests from marrying,
that it was lawful for the king to interdict to the people the use
of the cup in the Supper, that it was lawful for the king to appoint
this or that thing in his own kingdom. How so? because supreme power
is vested in the king. The same was the gloss of this Amaziah of
whom the Prophet now speaks: It is the sanctuary of the king.
    But he adds afterwards a second thing, "It is the house of the
kingdom." These words of Amaziah ought to be well considered. He
says first, It is the king's sanctuary, and then, It is the house of
the kingdom. Hence he ascribes to the king a twofold office, - that
it was in his power to change religion in any way he pleased, - and
then, that Amos disturbed the peace of the community, and thus did
wrong to the king by derogating from his authority. With regard to
the first clause, it is indeed certain that kings, when they rightly
discharge their duty, become patrons of religion and supporters of
the Church, as Isaiah calls them, (Isa. 49: 23.) What then is
chiefly required of kings, is this - to use the swords with which
they are invested, to render free the worship of God. But still they
are inconsiderate men, who give them too much power in spiritual
things; and this evil is everywhere dominant in Germany; and in
these regions it prevails too much. And we now find what fruit is
produced by this root, which is this, - that princes, and those who
are in power, think themselves so spiritual, that there is no longer
any church discipline; and this sacrilege greatly prevails among us;
for they limit not their office by fixed and legitimate boundaries,
but think that they cannot rule, except they abolish every authority
in the Church and become chief judges as well in doctrine as in all
spiritual government. The devil then suggested at that time this
sentiment to Amaziah, - that the king appointed the temple: hence,
since it was the king's sanctuary, it was not lawful for a private
man, it was not even lawful for any one, to deny that religion to be
of authority, which had been once approved of, and pleased the king.
And princes listen to a sweet song, when impostors lead them astray;
and they desire nothing more than that all things without any
difference or distinction should be referred to themselves. They
then gladly interfere, and at first show some zeal, but mere
ambition impels them, as they so carefully appropriate every thing
to themselves. Moderation ought then to be observed; for this evil
has ever been dominant in princes - to wish to change religion
according to their will and fancy, and at the same time for their
own advantage; for they regard what is of advantage to themselves,
as they are not for the most part guided by the Spirit of God, but
impelled by their own ambition. Since then we see that Satan by
these hidden arts formerly contended against God's prophets, we
ought to bewail and lament our own courses. But whosoever desires to
conduct himself as it behaves him, let him watch against this evil.
    It now follows, "And it is the house of the kingdom". Amaziah
contends here no more for the royal prerogative, with regard to
spiritual power. "Be it, that the king ought not to have appointed
new worship, thou hast yet offended against the peace of the
community." The greater part of the princes at this day seek nothing
so much as that they might enjoy their own quietness. They ever
declare that they would he courageous enough even to death in the
defense of their first confession; but yet what are the teachers
they seek for themselves? Even those who avoid the cross and who, to
gratify the Papists, or to render them at least somewhat milder,
change according to their wishes: for we see at this day that the
minds of princes are inflamed by these fanners, not to spare the
sacramentarians, nor allow to be called into question what is
asserted, not less grossly than foolishly and falsely, respecting
the presence of Christ's body, or his body being included under the
bread. "When we show that we contend against them, and that we are
separated from them, nays that we will be their mortal enemies, we
in this agree with the Papists; there will then be some access to
them, at least their great fury will cease, the Papists will become
gentle: they will no more be so incensed against us; we shall
hereafter obtain some middle course." So things are at this day
carried on in the world; and nothing is more useful than to compare
the state of our time with this example of the Prophet, so that we
may go on in our works employing the same weapons with which he
contended and not be moved by these diabolical arts; for we have no
enemies more hostile and open than these domestic traitors.
    "It is then the house of the kingdom". He now speaks of the
secular arm, as they say, and shows that though religion were to
perish a hundred times, yet care was to be taken, lest Amos should
pull up by the roots the kingdom of Jeroboam, and the customs of the
people. It now follows -

Amos 7:14,15
Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I [was] no prophet, neither
[was] I a prophet's son; but I [was] an herdman, and a gatherer of
sycomore fruit:
And the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said unto
me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel.
    
    The Prophet Amos first pleads for himself, that he was not at
liberty to obey the counsel of Amaziah, because he could not
renounce a calling to which he was appointed. As then he had been
sent by God, he proves that he was bound by necessity to prophesy in
the land of Israel. In the first place, he indeed modestly says,
that he was not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet: why did he say
this? To render himself contemptible? By no means though the words
apparently have this tendency; but it was to gain for himself more
authority; for his extraordinary call gave him greater weight than
if he had been brought up from his childhood in the schools of the
prophets. He then shows that he became a prophet by a miraculous
interposition, and that the office was not committed to him by human
authority, and in the usual way; but that he had been led to it as
it were by force, so that he could not cast aside the office of
teaching, without openly shaking off the yoke laid upon him by God.
    This account then which Amos gives of himself ought to be
noticed, "I was not a Prophet, nor the son of a Prophet". Had he
said simply that he was not a Prophet, he might have been accused of
presumption: how so? No one takes to himself this honor in the
Church of God; a call is necessary; Were an angel to descend from
heaven, he ought not to subvert public order; (Gal. 1: 8,) for all
things, as Paul reminds us, ought to be done decently and in lawful
order in the Church; for the God of peace presides over us. Had Amos
then positively denied that he was a Prophet, he might on this
account have been thrust away from his office of teaching, for he
wanted a call. But he means that he was not a Prophet who had been
from his childhood instructed in God's law, to be an interpreter of
Scripture: and for the same reason he says that he was not the son
of a Prophet; for there were then, we know, colleges for Prophets;
and this is sufficiently evident from sacred history. As then these
colleges were instituted for this end - that there might be always
seminaries for the Church of God, so that it might not be destitute
of good and faithful teachers, Amos says that he was not of that
class. He indeed honestly confesses that he was an illiterate man:
but by this as I have already said, he gained to himself more
authority inasmuch as the Lord had seized on him as it were by
force, and set him over the people to teach them: "See, thou shalt
be my Prophet, and though thou hast not been taught from thy youth
for this office, I will yet in an instant make thee a Prophet." It
was a greater miracle, that Christ chose rude and ignorant men as
his apostles, than if he had at first chosen Paul or men like him
who were skillful in the law. If then Christ had at the beginning
selected such disciples, their authority would have appeared less:
but as he had prepared by his Spirit those who were before
unlearned, it appeared more evident that they were sent from above.
And to this refers the expression the Prophet uses, when he says,
"Jehovah took me away": for it intimates that his calls as we have
said, was extraordinary. The rest we shall defer till to-morrow.
    
Prayer.
    
Grant, Almighty God, that inasmuch as thou permittest reins so loose
to Satan, that he attempts, in all manner of ways, to subvert thy
servants, - O grant, that they who have been sent and moved by thee,
and at the same time furnished with the invincible strength of thy
Spirit, may go on perseveringly to the last in the discharge of
their office: and whether their adversaries assails them by crafts,
or oppose them by open violence, may they not desist from their
course, but devote themselves wholly to thee, with prudence as well
as with courage, that they may thus persevere in continual
obedience: and do thou also dissipate all the mists and all the
crafts which Satan spreads to deceive the inexperienced, until at
length the truth emerge, which is the conqueror of the devil and of
the whole world, and until thy Son, the Sun of Righteousness,
appear, that he may gather the whole world, that in thy rest we may
enjoy the victory, which is to be daily obtained by us in our
constant struggles with the enemies of the same, thine only Son.
Amen.


Lecture Sixty-fifth.

Amos 7:16,17
Now therefore hear thou the word of the LORD: Thou sayest, Prophesy
not against Israel, and drop not [thy word] against the house of
Isaac.
Therefore thus saith the LORD; Thy wife shall be an harlot in the
city, and thy sons and thy daughters shall fall by the sword, and
thy land shall be divided by line; and thou shalt die in a polluted
land: and Israel shall surely go into captivity forth of his land.
    
    Amos having shown that he must obey God, who had committed to
him the office of teaching, now turns his discourse to Amaziah, and
points out what he would gain by his insolence in daring to forbid a
Prophet, an ambassador of the God of heaven, to proclaim what he had
in command. As, then, Amaziah had proceeded into such a degree of
rashness or rather of madness Amos now assails him and says, "Hear
then now the word of Jehovah". He sets here the word or the decree
of God in opposition to the prohibition of Amaziah: for the ungodly
priest had forbidden God's servant to proclaim his words any more in
the land of Israel: "Who art thou? Thou indeed thus speakest; but
God will also speak in his turn." He shows, at the same time, the
difference between the speech of Amaziah and the word of God: the
impostor had indeed attempted to terrify the holy man so as to make
him to desist from his office, though the attempt was vain; but Amos
shows that God's word would not be without effect: "Whether I hold
my peace or speak," he seems to say, "this vengeance is suspended
over thee." But he, at the same time, connects God's vengeance with
his doctrine; for this was also necessary, that the ungodly priest
might know that he gained nothing else, by attempting to do
everything, than that he had doubly increased the vengeance of God.
    There is, therefore, great emphasis in these words, "Now hear
the word of Jehovah thou who sayest, Prophesy not". Amaziah was
indeed worthy of being destroyed by God a hundred times, together
with all his offspring: but Amos intimates that God's wrath was
especially kindled by this madness, - that Amaziah dared to put a
restraint on God, and to forbid his Spirit freely to reprove the
sins of the whole people. Since, then, he proceeded so far, Amos
shows that he would have justly to suffer the punishment due to his
presumption, yea, to his furious and sacrilegious audacity, inasmuch
as he set himself up against God, and sought to take from him his
supreme authority, for nothing belongs more peculiarly to God than
the office of judging the world; and this he does by his word and
his Prophets. As, then, Amaziah had attempted to rob God of his own
right and authority, the Prophet shows that vengeance had been
thereby increased: "Thou then, who sayest, Prophesy not against
Israel, and speak not, hear the word of Jehovah".
    Remarkable is this passage, and from it we learn that nothing
is better for us, when God rebukes us, than to descend into our own
consciences, and to submit to the sentence which proceeds from his
mouth, and humbly to entreat pardon as soon as he condemns us: for
if we be refractory, God will not cease to speak, though we a
hundred times forbid him; he will therefore go on notwithstanding
our unwillingness. Further, we may vomit forth many blasphemies; but
what can our clamorous words do? The Lord will, at the same time,
speak with effect; he will not scatter his threatening in the air,
but will really fulfill what proceeds from his mouth; and for this
reason Paul compares heavenly truth to a sword, for vengeance is
prepared for despisers. We ought therefore to take notice of this in
the Prophet's words, - that when profane men attempt to repel every
tenth and all threatening, they gain nothing by their perverseness;
for the lord will exercise his own right; and he will also join to
his word, as they say, its execution. Thou then who sayest, Prophesy
not, hear the word of Jehovah; though thou mayest growl, yet God
will not be hindered by these thy commands; but he will ever
continue complete in his own authority." And he mentions "word', as
we have already said, to show that the truth, with which the ungodly
contend, is connected with the power of God. God might indeed
destroy all the unbelieving in silence, without uttering his voice;
but he will have his Word honored, that the ungodly may know that
they contend in vain, while they vomit forth their rage against his
word, for they will at length find that in his word is included
their condemnation.
    Now, when he says, "Prophecy not against Israel, and speak not
against the house of Isaac", we may learn again from these words,
that the word Isaac is used by the Prophet by way of concession; for
the people of Israel were then wont to adduce the example of this
holy patriarch. Thus superstitious men, neglecting the law of God,
the common rule, ever turn aside to the examples of the saints; and
they do this without any discrimination; nay, as their minds are
perverted, when anything has been wrongfully done by the fathers,
they instantly lay hold on it: and then, when there is anything
peculiar, which God had approved in the fathers but wished not to be
drawn, as they commonly say, into a precedent, the superstitious
think that they have the best reason in their favour, when they can
set up such a shield against God. As, then, the Israelites had at
that time the name of their father Isaac in their mouths while they
were foolishly worshipping God in Bethel and in other places,
contrary to what the law prescribed, the Prophet Amos designedly
repeats here again the name of Isaac, expressing it probably in
imitation of what had been said by Amaziah.
    Now follows a denunciation, "Therefore thus saith Jehovah".
This "lachen", therefore, shows that Amaziah suffered punishment,
not only because he had corrupted God's worship, because he had
deceived the people by his impostures and because he had made gain
by the disguise of religion; but because he had insolently dared to
oppose the authority of God, and to turn aside the Prophet from his
office, both by hidden crafts and by open violence. Inasmuch then as
he had attempted to do this, Amos now declares that punishment
awaited him. We hence see that destruction is doubly increased, when
we set up a hard and iron neck against God, who would have us to be
pliant, and when he reproves us, requires from us at least this
modesty - that we confess that we have sinned. But when we evade, or
when we proceed still outward, this issue will at last follow - that
God will execute double vengeance on account of our obstinacy.
Therefore then Jehovah saith: and O! that this were deeply engraven
on the hearts of men; there would not then be so much rebellion at
this day prevailing in the world. But we see how daring men are; for
as soon as the Lord severely reproves them, they murmur; and then,
if they have any authority they stretch every nerve to take away
from God his own rights, and from his servants their liberty. At the
same time, when we observe the ungodly to be so blind, that they
perceive not the vengeance, such as the Prophet here denounces, to
be nigh them, and dread it not, it behooves us duly to weigh what
the Prophet here declares and that is, that perverse men, as I have
already said, do gain this only by their obstinacy - that they more
and more inflame God's displeasure.
    With respect to the kind of punishment he was to suffer, it is
said, "Thy wife in the city shall be wanton": it is so literally;
but the Prophet speaks not here of voluntary wantonness. He then
intimates that Amaziah could not escape punishment, but that his
wife would be made a prostitute, when the enemies occupied the land
of Israel. We indeed know that it was a common thing for conquerors
to abuse women: and well would it be, were the practice abolished at
this day. Besides, it was deemed lawful in that age for the
conqueror to take to himself not only the daughter but also the wife
of another. This then is the reason why the Prophet says, Thy wife
shall be a prostitute. But he says, in the city; which was far more
grievous, than if the wife of Amaziah had been led to a distance,
and suffered that reproach in an unknown country: it would have less
wounded the mind of Amaziah, if the enemies had taken away his wife,
and this disgrace had continued unknown to him, it being done in a
distant land. But when his wife was publicly and before the eyes of
all constrained to submit to this baseness and turpitude, it was
much more hard to be endured, and occasioned much greater grief. We
hence see that the punishment was much increased by this
circumstance, which the Prophet states when he says, "Thy wife shall
in the city be a prostitute.
    Then it follows, "Thy sons and thy daughters shall by the sword
fall". It is a second punishment, when he declares, that the sons
and also the daughters of the ungodly priest would be slain by the
enemies. It was indeed probable, that some also of the common people
had suffered the same evils; but God no doubt punished the
willfulness and madness of Amaziah for having dared to resist
admonitions as well as threatening.
    But he also adds, "Thy land shall be divided by a line". He
means by this statement, that there should be none to succeed
Amaziah; but that whatever land he possessed should become a prey to
the enemies. Thy land then shall be divided by a line. It may at the
same time be, that Amos speaks here generally of the land of Israel;
and this seems to me probable. I indeed allow that neither by
Amaziah nor by the other priests was the law of God kept; but we yet
know that there was some affinity between the lawful priesthood, and
the spurious priesthood which the first Jeroboam had introduced.
Hence I conjecture that Amaziah had no possessions, it being lawful
for priests to have only gardens and pastures for their cattle; but
they cultivated no lands. I am therefore disposed to extend to the
whole people what is said of the land of one man; and this opinion
is confirmed by what immediately follows.
    "But thou shalt die in a polluted land". He called that the
land of Amaziah in which he and the rest of the people dwelt; but he
calls the land into which he, with all the rest, were to be driven,
a polluted land. If any one objects and says that this punishment
did not apply to one man, the ready answer is this, - that God meant
that an especial mark should be imprinted on his common judgment,
that Amaziah might know, that he had as it were accelerated God's
vengeance, which yet he intended to turn aside, when he sent away,
as we have seen, the Prophet Amos into the land of Judah.
    It follows at last, "Israel by migrating shall migrate from his
own land". We here see that the Prophet proclaimed no private
threatening, either to Amaziah himself or to his wife or to his
children, but extended his discourse to the whole people: the fact
at the same time remains unchanged that God intended to punish the
perverseness of that ungodly man, while executing his vengeance on
the whole people. Now follows -




Chapter 8.

Amos 8:1,2
Thus hath the Lord GOD shewed unto me: and behold a basket of summer
fruit.
And he said, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A basket of summer
fruit. Then said the LORD unto me, The end is come upon my people of
Israel; I will not again pass by them any more.

    By these words or by this vision the Prophet confirms what we
have already observed - that paternal chastisements would no longer
be exercised towards the people of Israel. God indeed, as it is well
known, had so treated that people, that he ever spared them even in
their greatest calamities. It was with a suspended hand that God
ever struck that people, until after many trials they at length
seemed so refractory, as not to be benefited by such remedies. This
subject then Amos now pursues: but a vision was shown to him to
confirm more fully God's judgment, or at least to produce a greater
impression on the minds of the people.
    God showed to him a basket full of summer-fruit. By
summer-fruit, I doubt not, he means a ripe punishment, as though he
said, that the vices of the people had ripened, that vengeance could
no longer be deferred: for an exposition of the vision immediately
follows, when he says, that the end of the people had come, &c.; and
this we have already explained in the third vision. But there is a
similarity in the Hebrew words, which cannot be expressed either in
Greek or Latin. "Kayits" means a summer-fruit, "kets" signifies an
end: one letter only is inserted in the word, summer-fruit, which
God showed in a basket; and then he adds that "kets", the end had
come. But as to the main point, we see that there is nothing
ambiguous. W will now return to the first thing.
    "Thus God showed to me". There is no need of repeating what I
have already discussed. The Prophet here prefaces, that he adduced
nothing without authority, but only faithfully related what had been
commanded him from above. And this ought to be carefully observed;
for God ever so employed his Prophets, that he yet reserved for
himself entire the right of teaching, and never transferred his own
office to men, that is, as to the authority. Then he says, "The Lord
Jehovah showed to me, and, lo, a basket of summer-fruit". We may
understand cherries by summer-fruit, and those fruits which have no
solid vigor to continue long; but this is too refined. I take the
simple meaning, that punishment had now become ripe; for the people
had not repented, though they had been so often warned; it was then
as it were summer. He showed to me a basket of summer-fruit. But as
to God asking his Prophet what he saw, we have already explained the
reason why it was done: it behaved the Prophet to be at first filled
with astonishment, that the people might be made more attentive; for
when we hear of a conference between God and the Prophet, our minds
are awakened; inasmuch as it must immediately occur to us, that
there is something worthy of being remembered. God then rouses in
this manner the minds of his people. So we see there is nothing
superfluous in this repetition.
    Now follows the exposition of the vision, "Jehovah said to me,
Come has the end on my people Israel". We perceive, then, the
meaning of the Prophet to be, - that the people had hitherto been
warned by moderate punishments; but that as they had become
hardened, extreme vengeance was nigh at hand, when God would no
longer perform the part of a father or of a physician, but would
utterly destroy those whom he had long borne with. We indeed know
that most grievous calamities had happened to the people of Israel,
even before this time; but whenever God showed forbearance, he ever
allured them to true penitence. Lest, then, they should promise such
a treatment to themselves hereafter, and by self flatteries protract
time, as hypocrites are wont to do, the Prophet declares here
expressly, that the end had come; as though he said, "Your iniquity
is ripe: now then gather the fruit; for ye cannot proceed farther,
no, not even for one day. Fruit will indeed come to you of itself."
"The end then is come, and I will no more add to pass by them". To
pass by, as we have already explained, is to be referred to
punishment. For why does God chastise his people, except that he is
solicitous for their salvation? He says, then, that he would make an
end, that he would not spend labour hereafter in correcting the
people, for he saw that nothing availed. Hence, I will not pass by
them, that is, I will execute my extreme vengeance: Il n'y faudra
plus retourner, as we commonly say. It follows -

Amos 8:3,4
And the songs of the temple shall be howlings in that day, saith the
Lord GOD: [there shall be] many dead bodies in every place; they
shall cast [them] forth with silence.
Hear this, O ye that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of
the land to fail.
    
    The Prophet touches the Israelites here, in an indirect way,
for taking such delight in their superstitions as to sing in their
prosperity, as though God was favorable to them; for the unbelieving
are wont to misconstrue both the hatred and the favor of God by the
present appearance of things. When the Turks enjoy prosperity, they
boast that God is on their side: we see also that the Papists draw
the same conclusion. It is the disposition of men not to look so
much on themselves as on external circumstances. When, therefore,
God indulges them for a time, though they be more than usually
wicked, they yet doubt not but that God is favorable to them. So the
Sodomites, to the very time in which they were overwhelmed by sudden
destruction, thought that they had peace with heaven, (Gen. 19):
this also is the reason why Isaiah says, that the ungodly had made,
as it were, a covenant with hell and death, (Isa. 28;) and we know
what Christ says of the time of Noah, that they then heedlessly
feasted and built sumptuous houses, (Matth. 24.) Such carnal
security has prevailed almost in all ages. But a special vice is
here noticed by the Prophet, namely, that the people of Israel sang
songs in their temples, as though they meant designedly to mock God:
for the voices of the Prophets resounded daily, and uttered grievous
and terrible threatening; but the people in the meantime sang in
their temples. In the same way the Papists act in the present day;
while they bellow and chant, they think that God is twice or three
times pacified; and they also congratulate themselves in their
temples, when they have everything prosperous. This abuse, then, is
what the Prophet refers to when he says, "Howlings shall be the
songs of the temple". For melody he mentions howling, as though he
said, "God will turn your songs to lamentations, though they be now
full of joy."
    He afterwards adds, "For many a carcass shall be cast down in
every place": but I prefer to render the word passively, "Cast down
everywhere with silence shall be many carcases". By these words he
intimates that there would be such a slaughter as would prevent them
from burying the dead bodies. We have said in another place that the
right of burial is commonly observed even by enemies; for it is more
than hostility to rage against the dead: and all who wish not to be
deemed wholly barbarous either bury their dead enemies, or permit
them to be buried; and there is a sort of an understanding on this
point among enemies, and the right of burial has been usually
observed in all ages, and held sacred among all nations. When
therefore dead bodies are thrown down in silence, it is an evidence
of a most grievous calamity. We hence see why the Prophet distinctly
expresses here, that many a dead body would be cast down in every
place in silence, that is, that there would be no burying of the
dead. But as we see men, though a hundred times proved guilty, yet
quarreling with God, when he executes rather a grievous punishment,
the Prophet now contends with the Israelites, and again repeats what
we have before noticed, - that God did not deal cruelly with them,
and that though he should consume and obliterate the whole people,
it would yet be for just reasons, inasmuch as they had reached the
very extremities of wickedness.
    And he assails by name the princes of the people, "Hear this,
he says, ye who tread upon or swallow up the poor". The Prophets, as
we have already stated, did not without reason direct their
discourses to the chief men, though the common people were nearly as
much involved in the same guilt. It is certain that the state of the
people of Israel was then so corrupt, that all, from the highest to
the lowest, were become degenerated and none were free from blame.
But as more guilt belongs always to leaders, this is the reason why
the Prophets treated them with more sharpness and severity: for many
of the common people go astray through thoughtlessness or ignorances
or are led on by others, but they who govern, pervert what is just
and right, and then become the originators of all kinds of
licentiousness. It is no wonder then that the Lord by his Prophets
inveighed so sharply against them; and this is now the object of the
Prophet in saying, Hear this: for there is an emphasis in the
expression, when he bids them to hear; it was either because they
did not sufficiently observe their sins, and were wholly deaf, or
because they in vain contended with God; for hypocrites think that
by evasion they can escape judgment. "Hear, he says, ye who devour
the miserable, and destroy the poor of the land". We see here some
difference marked, and that the Prophet does not generally and
indiscriminately summon the common people and the princes to God's
tribunal; but turns his discourse to the princes only. It now
follows -

Amos 8:5
Saying, When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and
the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small,
and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit?
    
    The Prophet goes on here with the same subject; for this could
not apply to the whole people, but only to the plunderers who were
able to oppress the miserable and the poor among the common people,
and who had a great abundance of corn: the same we see at this day,
- a few men in time of want have provisions hoarded up, so that they
as it were put to death miserable men by reducing them to want.
Since then the few rich held the whole people in a state of famine,
the Prophet says here, "Do you think that God deals too rigidly or
too cruelly with your inasmuch as ye have hitherto been killing men
with misery and want?" Were any one to object, and say, that the
slaughter which the Prophet has already threatened was to be common
to the whole people, and that therefore it is now improperly stated,
that the wrongs done to the people were brought on them by a few
men: to this I answers that there were other vices among the people
which required to be corrected, and this we have already seen, and
shall see again in other parts; but it was necessary to make a
beginning with the proud men, who, relying on their own dignity,
thought themselves exempt and free from the common lot. Hence it was
necessary to close their mouths: and further, the Prophet did not
spare others in their turn. But we see to what extent of mad folly
haughty men, and such as possess worldly riches and powers would
run, were not the Lord to restrain and check them. This is the
reason why the Prophet now especially addresses them.
    Ye therefore say, "When will pass the month, that we may sell
corn?" Some take "chodesh", month, for the new-moon; and it is
sometimes so taken and this interpretation is probable; for
immediately follows the word, Sabbath. "When then will pass the
month, and when will pass Sabbath, that us may be able to sell our
corn?" As it was not lawful to carry on business either on the
Sabbath or on the new-moon, whenever they rested but one day, they
thought that so much time was lost to them; for we see that the
avaricious grow weary, as their cupidity ever excites them, for they
are like an oven: and since they are thus hot, if an hour is lost
they think that a whole year has passed away; they calculate the
very moments of time. "How is it," they say, "there is no merchant
coming? I have now rested one day, and I have not gained a
earthing." As then the avaricious are so extremely careful, it is
probable that the Prophet here refers to this disease of the mind,
as though he said, "You have no rest, no relaxation. God has
commanded his people to rest on every new-moon; and his will also
is, that you should abstain from every work on the seventh day: ye
think it is time as lost, for ye get no gain." But another
exposition is equally probable, which is this, - that they expected
corn to be every month dearer; as those robbers in our day gape for
gain, who from every quarter heap together corn, and thus reduce us
to want; they look forward, month after month, and think that some
calamity may happen to increase the price of corn; frost or rain may
come, some disaster may take place; when the spring passes away,
there may come some hail or mildew; in short, they are, as it were,
laying in wait for some evil. This meaning does not ill suit this
place; at the same time they refer it to the intercalary month,
which being an addition, prolongs time, so that the year becomes
longer: and what follows, respecting the Sabbath corresponds well
with this view; as the word is to be taken in another sense than of
the seventh day, for we know that on every seventh year there was no
sloughing, no cultivation of the land, among the Jews; and the corn
was then dearer, when there was no crop. Thus then there was a prey
as it were provided for the avaricious and the extortioners.
    "When then will pass the Sabbath, that we may open our
storehouses?" They closed their storehouses, until the whole year,
without cultivation or produce or harvest, had passed away; and then
they opened their storehouses, or at least it was the time when they
in a great measure opened them. Since then they so cruelly dealt
with the people, the Prophet justly reproves them, and shows that
God did not too rigidly treat theme but recompensed them with such a
reward as they merited. Other matters we shall defer to the next
Lecture.
    
Prayer.
    
Grant, Almighty, that as thou ceases not daily to warn us in time to
repent and anticipate thy judgment, - O grant, that we may not be so
deaf and slow, as to delay until our vices be ripened, lest no
remedy should remain for us; but, on the contrary, that being tamed
and subdued by thy threatening, we may flee to thy mercy, and so
consider thy judgments while at a distance, that we may not provoke
thy wrath by our perverseness, but rather dispose thee to pardon by
striving to be reconciled to thee in the name of Christ thy Son, and
by doing this not only with the mouth and tongue, or by any other
outward means, but also with a real feeling of heart and a life
corresponding thereto, so that we may present ourselves in
uprightness and sincerity, as thy children, that thou mayest also
show thyself as a Father to us in the same Christ, thy Son, our
Lord. Amen.


Lecture Sixty-sixth.

    In my last Lecture I was under the necessity of breaking off
the subject: the sixth verse, with the two preceding ones, must be
connected together. The Prophet says

Amos 8:6
That we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of
shoes; [yea], and sell the refuse of the wheat?
    
    Here still he speaks of the avarice of the rich, who in time of
scarcity held the poor subject to themselves and reduced them to
slavery. He had spoken before of the Sabbaths, and he had spoken of
deceitful balances; he now adds another kind of fraud, - that by
selling the refuse of wheat, they bought for themselves the poor. We
indeed know what is the influence of poverty and pressing want, when
men are oppressed with famine; they would rather a hundred times
sell their life, than not to rescue themselves even by an invaluable
price: for what else is food but the support of life? Men therefore
will ever value their life more than all other things. Hence the
Prophet condemns this iniquity - that the rich gaped for such an
opportunity. They saw that corn was high in price; "Now is the time
for the poor to come into our possession, for we hold them as though
they were ensnared; so then we can buy them for a pair of shoes."
But the other circumstance increases this iniquity, - that they sold
the refuse of the wheat; and when they reduced to bondage the poor,
they did not feed them; they mingled filth and offscourings with the
wheat, as it is wont to be done; for we know that such robbers
usually do this, when want presses upon the common people; they sell
barley for wheat, and for barley they sell chaff and refuse. This
kind of wrong is not new or unusual, as we learn from this passage.
Now follows a denunciation of punishment -

Amos 8:7
The LORD hath sworn by the excellency of Jacob, Surely I will never
forget any of their works.
    
    God, having made known the vices of the rich, now shows that he
would be their judge and avenger: for were they only reproved, they
would not have cared much, like the usurer mentioned by Horace, who
said, "The people may hiss me, but I felicitate myself." So also
these robbers were wont to do, when they were filled: though the
whole people exclaimed against them, though God thundered from
heaven, they laughed everything to scorn; for they were utterly
destitute of every shame; and they were also become hardened; and
insatiable cupidity had so blinded and demented them, that they had
cast aside every care for what was right and becoming. Since it was
so, God now declares that they could not escape punishment; and that
this threatening might more effectually penetrate into their hearts,
the Prophet makes use of an oath in the name of God, "Jehovah, he
says, has sworn by the excellency of Jacob".
    An old interpreter has rendered the words, "He has sworn
against the pride of Jacob:" but he did not sufficiently consider
the design of the Prophet; for he speaks not here of vice, but of
that dignity which the Lord had conferred on the posterity of
Abraham; for we have before seen this expression, 'I abhor the
excellency of Jacob.' Some give this rendering, "I abhor the pride
of Jacob," as though God were speaking there of perverse
haughtiness. But he, on the contrary, means, that the Israelites
were deceived, for they thought themselves safe and secure, because
they were introduced into great favor by a singular privilege.
"This," the Lord says, "will profit them nothing: I have hitherto
been kind and bountiful to the children of Abraham; but I now abhor
this whole dignity." So also he says now in this place, Jehovah has
sworn by the excellency of Jacob. They were proud of their dignity
which yet was the free gift of God. hence God interposes a form of
oath, the fittest to reprove their presumption. Some at the same
time give this translation, "By myself, (at least they give this
explanation,) by myself have I sworn:" for God was the glory of
Jacob. Others think that by this word, "ga'on" is designated the
sanctuary; for this was the excellency of Jacob, because God had
chosen it as a habitation for himself in the midst of his people:
hence, also, He is often said to dwell between the cherubim; not
that he was inclosed in the sanctuary, but because the people
perceived there his presence, his favor, and his power. But I rather
understand by the term, excellency, in this place, the adoption, by
which God had separated for himself that people from the rest of the
world. Sworn then has Jehovah. How? By the excellency of Jacob: and
thus he glances in a severe manner at the ingratitude of the people,
as they did not own themselves to be in every respect bound to God;
for they had been peculiarly chosen, when yet other nations in many
things excelled them. It was doubtless an invaluable favor for that
ignoble people to have been chosen to be God's peculiar possession
and heritage. Hence the Prophet now rightly introduces God as being
angry; and the form of the oath is suited to set forth the people's
ingratitude: "What! do ye now rise up against me, and elevate your
horns? By what right? Under what pretext? Who are ye? I chose you,
and ye truly repay me with this reward, - that though ye owe me all
things, ye seek to defraud me of my right. I therefore swear by the
excellency of Jacob, - I swear by the benefits which I conferred on
you, - that I will not allow that which is justly precious in my
sight to be disgracefully profaned. Whatever then I have hitherto
bestowed on you, I will return on your own heads, and, as ye
deserve, ye shall miserably perish." This is the meaning.
    We hence see that the oath which the Prophet uses, ought to be
applied to the present case. He says, "I shall never forget all your
works", that is, none of your works shall be passed by unpunished.
For though conscience sometimes disturbs hypocrites yet they think
that many things may be concealed; and if the hundredth part, or at
farthest the tenth, must be accounted for, they think this to be
quite enough: "Why! God may perhaps observe this or that, but many
faults will escape him." Since then hypocrites thus heedlessly
deceive themselves, the Prophet says, "Nothing can ever be hid from
my sight; nay, as I now know all their works, I will show that all
their sins are recorded in my books, in my memory, so that all
things shall at last be called to an account." It now follows -

Amos 8:8
Shall not the land tremble for this, and every one mourn that
dwelleth therein? and it shall rise up wholly as a flood; and it
shall be cast out and drowned, as [by] the flood of Egypt.
    
    He confirms what the last verse contains in other words: and
the question is emphatical, for it is a double affirmation. A
question, we know, is usually put, when there is no measure of doubt
on the subject. God then asks here as of a thing certain, how they
could remain in safety, who had so perverted every thing right and
just, who had violated all equity, who were influenced by no
feelings of humanity, - how could such continue safe? It was
impossible. We hence see why the Prophet here uses a question; it
was, that he might more fully confirm what he declares.
    "Shall not the land, he says, make a tumult?" when these
disturb all order, when they mingle, as the proverb is, heaven and
earth together, can the earth remain quiet under such a violent
confusion? when all reason and equity is confounded, how, he says,
can the land do otherwise than make a tumult? And though the Prophet
ascribes not here either clamour or speech to the land; it is yet a
sort of personification, when he says that the earth must
necessarily make a tumult, while it sustains such inhabitants; for
between them there was no agreement. Since then their way of living
was extremely turbulent, the land itself must necessarily be
agitated.
    He afterwards adds, "And mourn shall every one who dwells in
it". He now shows that the inhabitants of the earth shall feel that
commotion of which he predicts: for the earth, ceasing to fulfill
its offices, constrains its inhabitants to lament and mourn. And
then there is another metaphor which sets forth the moving of the
earth, that it will rise as a river to destroy men with a deluge.
Many render what follows, "It shall be driven away and closed up
like the river of Egypt." But after the Prophet has spoken of
inundation of the earth, he turns his discourse to the men whom this
inundation would drown and swallow up. Hence, the real sense is,
that their habitations would be destroyed, as by a deep gulf, in a
way similar to the Nile, which, by overflowing the whole country,
seems to make a sea of what had been inhabited. As the Prophet's
words lead us as by the hand, I wonder how those skillful in the
Hebrew language could have blended things so different, for they
give this explanation, "The land shall be raised up, as a river, and
then it shall be destroyed and driven away;" and they refer this to
the land; and then, "it shall be sunk down:" this also they apply to
the land; except that some give this rendering, "It shall discharge
itself like the river of Egypt." But I translate otherwise, "It
shall heave up whole as a river, and shall be driven away, and shall
be immersed as by the river of Egypt." It shall heave up, he says,
that is, the land as a river; so that there will be no habitation
for men: "I have given this land to my people that they might live
in it; but the land itself shall heave up as a river; there shall be
an inundation of the whole land." And then when he says, It shall be
driven away and sunk, this ought not to be referred to the land
itself, but to the inhabitants or to the people.
    He had said before, "ka'or", as a river; but now he says,
"kiy'or", which I explain as meanings as by the river of Egypt. The
Nile, we know, overflows annually and covers the whole plain of
Egypt. The Prophet therefore borrowed a similitude from the Nile;
and he says, that such would be God's vengeance, that the land would
be like a river, and its dwellings would be immersed and carried
away, or annihilated: for when there is no surface of land, it seems
to have been cleared away. So then be says now, It shall be driven
away, It shall be sunk. This is the simple explanation; and "ayin"
is to be understood; for "shaka'" is to sink or to cover. Here, "he"
is only put, but "ayin" is to be understood, and there is also a
double reading pointed out. We now then perceive the Prophet's
meaning. But it follows -

Amos 8:9
And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord GOD, that I
will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth
in the clear day:
    
    The Prophet speaks here metaphorically of the punishments which
were then to the people nigh at hand: and as prosperity and success
deceived the Israelites, the Prophet makes use of this significative
mode of speaking: "Ye congratulate yourselves on account of your
wealth and other things which delight you, as though God could not
turn light into darkness; and as God spares you, ye think that it
will ever be the same with you; but God can, he says, turn light
into darkness: a dark night therefore will overtake you even at
mid-day." We now understand why the Prophet employed this figurative
expression, - that God would obscure the sun, or cause it to go
down, and would on a clear day send darkness to obscure the earth.
It was not, it is certain, the eclipse of the sun; and the Prophet
did not mean this. But these figurative expressions must be first
noticed, and then we must see what they import.
    Were any one disposed to lay-hold on what is literal and to
cleave to it, his notions would be gross and insipid, not only with
regard to the writings of the Prophets, but also with regard to all
other writings; for there is no language which has not its
figurative expressions. There is then in this passage a remarkably
significative mode of speaking, - that God would make the sun to go
down or to become cloudy at mid-day. But we must especially notice
the design of the Prophet, which was to show, that the Israelites
trusting in their prosperity, thought themselves to be beyond the
reach of danger; hence their security and hence their torpor, and at
length their perverseness and their contempt of God: since then the
Prophet saw that they abused the benefits of God, he says, "What!
the Lord indeed has caused your sun to rise; but cannot he make it
to set, yea, even at mid-day? Ye now exult in its light; but God
will suddenly and unexpectedly send darkness to cover your heads."
There is then no reason for hypocrites to flatter themselves, when
God smiles on them and treats them indulgently; for in this manner
he invites them to repentance by the sweetness of his goodness, as
Paul says in the second chapter to the Romans. But when he sees them
stubbornly wanton, then he turns his benefits into punishments. This
then is what the Prophet means: "God," he says, "will make the sun
to set at mid-day, and will darken the clear day." Let us go on -

Amos 8:10
And I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into
lamentation; and I will bring up sackcloth upon all loins, and
baldness upon every head; and I will make it as the mourning of an
only [son], and the end thereof as a bitter day.
    
    The Prophet pursues the same subject; but he omits the
figurative mode which he had before adopted. He therefore denounces
vengeance more openly, - that God would turn their festal-days into
mourning, and their songs into lamentation. This was designedly
mentioned; for the Israelites, we know, flattered themselves on
account of their ceremonies by which at the same time they more and
more provoked God's displeasure: for the worship of God, which they
pretended to perform, was mere superstition, and was therefore a
profanation of true religion. Though then they thus brought on
themselves God's judgment by their wicked ceremonies, they yet
thought that they were sufficiently disguised; for as Jeremiah says,
ceremonies are to hypocrites the dens of robbers, (Jer. 7.) So here
the Prophet speaks expressly of festal-days and of songs, - "Think
ye that I am pacified on your feast-days, when ye offer sacrifices
to me, or rather to idols under my name; and think ye that I am
delighted with your songs? these things are so regarded by me, that
they the more excite my wrath. Your festal-days then will I turn to
mourning, and your songs to lamentation." At the same time, the
Prophet threatens generally what we have before noticed, - that
there would be mourning among the whole people for having too long
abused the forbearance of God; I will then turn your joy into
mourning. This is the sum of the whole. We have already shown why he
names feast-days and songs, and that is, because they thought them
to be expiations to turn aside God's vengeance, when yet they were
fans by which they kindled more and more the fire of his
displeasure.
    He afterwards adds, "I will make to come up on all backs the
sackcloth, and on every head baldness". These are various modes of
speaking, which refer to the same thing: for they were wont to put
on sackcloth and they were wont to shave their heads when in grief
and mourning. The Prophet then means, that there would be extreme
sorrow among the people, that having cast away all delights, they
would be constrained to give up themselves entirely to weeping,
lamentation, and grief. I will then make to come up on all loins the
sackcloth, that is, I will make each one to put off all valuable and
soft clothing and to put on sackcloth; and also to shave their
heads, and even to tear off their hair, as they were wont to do. We
indeed know that the orientals were more disposed to adopt external
tokens of sorrow than we are. It was in truth the levity of that
country that accounts for their playing the part of actors in
mourning; and from this practice of mourning our Prophet borrowed
his mode of speaking.
    He afterwards subjoins, "I will set her" (he speaks of the
Israelites under the name of land) "in mourning as for an only
begotten". This similitude occurs also in another place, 'They shall
mourn as for an only-begotten,' says Zechariah in the twelfth
chapter; so also in other places; so that there is no need of a long
explanation. For when one has many children and one dies, he
patiently bears his death; but when any one is bereaved of an
only-begotten, there is no end nor moderation to his grief; for
there is no comfort remaining. This is the reason why the Prophet
says, that there would be grief, such as that which is felt for an
only-begotten.
    And he shows that these calamities would not be for a short
time only, "Her posterity, he says, shall be as in the day of
bitterness". For hypocrites drive away, or at least moderate, their
fear of punishment by imagining that God will not be so severe and
rigid but for a short time, - "O! it cannot be God will for long
punish our sins; but it will be like mist which soon passes away."
Thus hypocrites felicitate themselves. Then the Prophet does not
without reason subjoin this second clause, that their posterity
shall be as in the day of bitterness. Hence when they shall think
themselves freed from all evils, then new ones shall succeed, so
that their posterity shall even doubly grieve; for they shall feel
more bitterness than their fathers. It now follows -

Amos 8:11,12
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine
in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of
hearing the words of the LORD:
And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to
the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD,
and shall not find [it].

    Here now the Prophet fulminates, for he denounces not temporal
punishments, but final destruction, and what proves to be an
evidence of reprobation, and that is, that God would deprive the
Israelites of every light of truth, so that they would wander as the
blind in the dark. It is indeed certain, that they had been before
this time bereaved of sound doctrine; for falsehoods and
superstitions prevailed among them; and we have seen that in the
land of Israel the true and faithful servants of God suffered cruel
tyranny. But yet God restrained the people, as it were, against
their will; when they fled away from him, and withdrew themselves
from under his government, he still goaded them, and tried as by
force to restore them to the way of safety. God thus contended with
the wickedness of the people for many years, to the time of our
Prophet, yea, until the ten tribes were banished; for these, we
know, were led to exile first, and at length the kingdom of Israel
was abolished; but the Lord ceased not to stretch forth his hand.
Now when he saw that the labour of his servants was vain and
useless, when he saw that no fruit proceeded from his word, when he
saw that his name was profaned and his kindness trodden under foot,
he denounced final vengeance, as though he said, "I am now broken
down with weariness, I have hitherto borne with your cries, and
though by many kinds of punishment I have endeavored to restore you,
I have yet observed a moderate course, that there might not be
wanting some remedy for you. It has not, therefore, been my fault
that your diseases have not been healed; for I have often sent
Prophets to draw you to repentance, but without any success. I will
now then take away my word from you." But as celestial doctrine is
the spiritual food of the soul, the Prophet rightly adopts this
metaphor, that the Lord would send a famine. This figure, then is
borrowed from the efficacy and nature of God's word: for to what
purpose does God send to us Prophets and teachers, but to feed us
with spiritual food? As he sustains our bodies by bread and water,
or wine, and other aliments, so also he nourishes our souls and
sustains our spiritual life by his word. Since, then, spiritual
doctrine is our spiritual aliment, the Prophet very properly says,
that there would come a famine.
    "I will then send a famine, not of bread or of water, but of
hearing the word of God". The antithesis amplifies or exaggerates
the severity of the punishment, as though he had said, that it would
be endurable to wander in hunger and thirst, and to seek roots on
mountains, and to seek water in distant rivers: but a bodily famine,
he says, is not what shall be grievous to them, - what then? They
shall be in hunger and thirst, and shall seek the word of God, and
nowhere find it. But that we may better understand the meaning of
the Prophet, we must notice what Paul says, - that we are fed by the
Lord as by the head of a family, when the word is offered to us,
(Tit. 1: 3;) for teachers go not forth of themselves, but when they
are sent from above. As then the head of a family provides meat and
sustenance for his children and servants, so also the Lord supplies
us daily with spiritual food by true and faithful teachers, for they
are as it were his hands. Whenever then pure doctrine is offered to
us, let us know that the teachers who speak and instruct us by their
ministrations are, as it were, the hand of God, who sets food before
us, as the head of a family is wont to do to his children: this is
one thing. And certainly since the Lord cares for our bodies, we
must also know that our souls are not neglected by him: and further,
since the earth produces not corn and other things of itself, but
God's blessing is the source of all fruitfulness and abundance, is
not his word a much more precious food? Shall we then say that it
comes to us by chance? It is hence no wonder that the Prophet sets
here the deprivation of sound doctrine among God's judgments; as
though he said, "Whenever men are faithfully taught, it is a proof
of God's singular kindness, and a testimony of his paternal care. As
God then has hitherto discharged towards you the office of the
kindest father of a family, so now he will deprive you of meat and
drink, that is, those which are spiritual." Now, in the second
place, we must observe, that when we abuse God's bounty, our
ingratitude deserves this recompense, that want should teach us that
God ought not to have been despised in his benefits. This is
generally true: for when we intemperately indulge in luxury when God
gives us abundance of bread and wine, we fully deserve that this
intemperance and excess should be cured by famine and want. But
bread and wine are of no great value, and soon pass away: when
therefore we abuse celestial doctrine, which is far more precious
than all earthly things, what punishment does not such willfulness
deserve? It is therefore no wonder that God should take away his
word from all ungrateful and profane men, when he sees it treated
with mockery or disdain: and this truth ought to be carefully
considered by us at this day; for we see with how little reverence
the greater part of men receive the celestial doctrine, which at
this time is so bountifully offered to us. God has indeed in our age
opened the wonderful treasures of his paternal bounty in restoring
to us the light of truth. What fear there is now? What religion?
Some scoff, some disdain, some indeed profess to receive what is
said, but they pass it by negligently, being occupied with the cares
and concerns of this world, and some furiously oppose, as the
Papists do. Since then the perverseness or the wickedness, or the
carelessness of the world, is so great, what can we expect, but that
the Lord will send a much thicker darkness than that in which we
have been before immersed, and suffer us to go astray and wander
here and there in hunger and thirst? If then we fear God, this
punishment, or rather the denunciation of this punishment, ought
ever to be before our eyes. And the antithesis also, as it is very
important should be carefully considered; for the Prophet by the
comparison increases the punishment: it shall not, he says, be the
want of meat and drink, for such a divine visitation would be more
tolerable; but it shall be a spiritual famine. Inasmuch then as we
are too much entangled by our flesh, these words ought to arouse us,
that we may more attentively reflect on this dreadful punishment,
and learn to fear the famine or want of the soul more than that of
our bodies. When the sterility of the land threatens us with famine,
we are all anxiety, and no day passes, in which this anxious
question does not ten times occur to us, - "What will become of us?
We now suffer from famine and want, and we are, as yet, distant from
the harvest three or four months." All feel anxious, and in the
meantime we are not touched by any concern when the Lord threatens
us with spiritual want. Since then we are so disposed to be
overanxious for this frail life, it is the more necessary for us to
take notice at the comparison mentioned by our Prophet.
    But it may be here asked, Why does he say that they should be
so famished as to "run here and there, and wander from sea to sea,
from the south even to the east", since this ought to be counted as
one of God's favors; for what more grievous thing can happen to us,
than that the Lord should render us stupid and unconcerned? But when
we are touched with some desire for sound doctrine, it evidently
appears that there is some religion in us; we are not destitute of
the Spirit of God, though destitute of the outward medium: and then
comes what Christ says, 'Knock, and it shall be opened to you; seek,
and ye shall find,' (Matth. 7: 7.) Therefore this denunciation of
the Prophet seems not, it is said, so severe and dreadful. But we
must observe, that the Prophet does not speak here strictly of
famine, as though he said, that the Israelites would feel the want
of God's word, that they would really look for it, that they would
sincerely seek it, but that they would perceive by the punishment
itself, that nothing is more to be dreaded than to be deprived of
the spiritual food of the soul. An example of this is found in Esau:
when he saw that he had lost his birth-right, he cried and howled.
He did not do this either from a right feeling, or because he had
returned to a sound mind; but he was urged on by despair only: and
then he sent forth lamentations and howlings, as though he were a
wild beast. An anxiety like this is what the Prophet describes here.
We hence learn, that the reprobate, when they see themselves
deprived of God's favors, are not really moved, so that they repent,
but only feel strong agonies, so that they torment themselves
without any benefit, and do not turn themselves to God.
    What then is this to seek? We must notice what he said before -
that they shall wander from sea to sea, and then, that they shall
run here and there. When the faithful perceive any token of God's
wrath, they immediately conclude and clearly see, that there is no
remedy but to retake themselves directly to God: 'but the ungodly,
what do they do? They disquiet themselves, and make a great noise.
It is then this empty and false feeling of which the Prophet speaks.
Now then the question is answered. But we must at the same time
observe, what the best way is to recover the favor of God, when we
are deprived of it; and it is this, - to consider our elate, and to
return to him under a due consciousness of God's judgment, and to
seek to be reconciled to him. Thus will he restore what he has taken
away. But if our obstinacy be like that of the Israelites, God will
deprive us of his benefits, and not only those which are necessary
to support our present life, but also of the spiritual food of the
soul: then in vain will our howlings rend the air, for he will not
give us an upright spirit to return to him; but we shall in vain
bite the bridle, we shall in vain torment ourselves: for he will not
suffer us to come where we ought, that is, he will not lead us to
true repentance nor to a genuine calling on him, but we shall pine
away in our evils without any remedy.
    
Prayer.
    
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou continues to recall us to thyself,
and though thou sees us to be alienated from thee, thou yet dost
extend thy hand to us, and often exhort and stimulate us by holy
admonitions, and even frighten us by punishments, that we may not
run headlong to our own ruin, - 0 grant, that we may not be deaf to
admonitions so holy and gracious, nor be hardened against thy
threatening, but that we may become instantly submissive, and also
return to the right way and constantly proceed in it, and follow one
vocation through our whole life, as long as thou continues it to us,
until we at length reach the mark which is set before us, even until
we be gathered into thy celestial kingdom, through Jesus Christ our
Lord. Amen.


Lecture Sixty-seventh.

Amos 8:13,14
In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst.
They that swear by the sin of Samaria, and say, Thy god, O Dan,
liveth; and, The manner of Beersheba liveth; even they shall fall,
and never rise up again.
    
    The Prophet, having threatened spiritual famine, now adds, that
the people would in every respect be barren and destitute of every
good: for I take not thirst here in the same sense as before; but
that they should be dried up through the want of all things. It is
indeed the worst deprivation when men are parched up with thirst;
and this is what the Prophet threatens here. A country may suffer
from want of provision, while there is water enough to drink; but
when not even this remains, it is an evidence of a heavier and of
almost the extreme curse of God. We now perceive what the Prophet
meant, which was this, - that when God should take away his word, by
which the souls of men are nourished up to eternal life, the
Israelites would be then in want also of all blessings, so that they
would not only be without bread, but also without water; and he
mentions a circumstance which would greatly aggravate the evil,
"Faint, he says, shall the fair virgins and the youth in their
vigor". It seems unnatural, that those who are vigorous, and can run
to get supply for their wants, should faint: but the Prophet, as I
have said, wished to show that there would be no escape, but that
God would distress the strongest, when he sent such a famine, and
with it the want also of drink.
    He afterwards mentions the reason why the Lord would inflict
such punishments on his people; it was, because they had prostituted
themselves to wicked superstitions; "They swear, he says, by the sin
of Samaria; they say, Live does thy God, Dan; Live does the way of
Beersheba". Some understand "sin" here metaphorically, (as it is
taken also in many other places,) as meaning sin-offerings, which
are called by the Hebrews "'ashamot", and by the Latins piacula -
expiations: but this exposition is too refined. The Prophet then
speaks only of the idols of Israelites: and they are called
wickedness or sin, because superstitious men, we know, delight in
their own devices. He therefore calls an idol sin by way of
reproach, though they gave it the honorable name of a god. They
swear, he says, in or by the sin of Samaria. He calls it the sin of
Samaria, for thence arose all their corruptions, it being the royal
residence and the chief city of the whole country. Since then
superstition proceeded from thence, the Prophet does not without
reason say that all the idolatry, throughout the whole land, was the
sin of Samaria; for he regarded the source where impiety originated.
    And he afterwards explains himself by saying, "Live does thy
God, Dan; and, Live does the way of Beersheba": for we know that
temples were raised both in Dan and in Beersheba. He then subjoins
two forms of an oath, but for this end, - to show the character of
the sin of Samaria, which he mentions. They swear then by the gods
of Samaria, who were really detestable; for there is no greater
atrocity in the sight of God than idolatry: but he afterwards adds,
that they were gods who were worshipped at Dan and at Beersheba.
What some say of the word "derech", that it means pilgrimage or the
way that leads there, is frivolous and puerile; for the Prophet, no
doubt, used a common expression. He therefore calls custom "the way
of Beersheba", such as then was by common consent receded and
approved. They then who swear by these fictitious forms of worship
shall be parched, or pine away, with thirst.
    He then adds, "They shall fall, and rise again no more"; that
is, their stroke shall be incurable, for God has hitherto employed
moderate punishments, which could not heal them, as they had been
obdurate in their evils. The Prophet then declares now that there
would be no more any prospect of a remedy for them, and that the
wound which God would inflict would be fatal, without any hope of
being healed. This is the meaning. Let us now proceed -


Chapter 9.

Amos 9:1
I saw the Lord standing upon the altar: and he said, Smite the
lintel of the door, that the posts may shake: and cut them in the
head, all of them; and I will slay the last of them with the sword:
he that fleeth of them shall not flee away, and he that escapeth of
them shall not be delivered.
    
    The Prophet confirms the threatening which we have already
explained; for he says that the people would be soon removed, as
there was now no hope of repentance. But it must first be observed,
that he speaks not here of the profane temples which Jeroboam the
first had built in Dan and in Bethel, but of the true and lawful
temple; for it would not have been befitting that this vision should
have been made to the Prophet in one of those profane temples, from
which, we know, God was far away. Had God appeared in Dan or Bethel,
it would have been an indirect approbation of superstition. They are
then mistaken who think that the vision was given to the Prophet in
any other place than on mount Zion, as we have shown in other
places. For the Prophets say not, that God had spoken either in Dan
or in Bethel, nor had there been any oracle announced from these
places; for God designed in every way to show that he had nothing to
do with those profane rites and abominations. It is then certain
that God appeared to his Prophet on mount Zion, and on the lawful
altar.
    Let us now see the design of the vision. The greater part of
interpreters think that the destruction of the kingdom and of the
priesthood is predicted here, at the time when Zedekiah was taken
and led ignominiously into exile, and when his children were killed,
and when afterwards the temple was erased and the city demolished.
But this prediction, I doubt not, ought to be extended much farther,
even to the many calamities which immediately followed, by which at
length the whole people were destroyed. I therefore do not confine
what is here said to the demolition of the city and of the temple.
But the meaning of the Prophet is the same as though he had said,
that the Israelites as well as the Jews in vain boasted of their
descent and of other privileges with which they had been honored:
for the Lord had resolved to destroy them, and also the temple,
which they employed as a cloak to cover their iniquities. We now
then understand the intention of the Prophet. But this also must be
noticed, - that if the Lord spared not his own temple, which he had
commanded to be built, and in which he had chosen a habitation for
himself, those profane temples, which he had ever despised, could
not possibly escape destruction. We now see the design of this
prophecy, which is the last, with the exception of the promise that
is given, of which we shall speak in its proper place.
    He says then that he "saw God standing on the altar". The
Prophet might have heard what follows without a vision; but God
then, we know, was wont to sanction his predictions by visions, as
we find in the twelfth chapter of Numbers. God then not only
intended to commit to his Prophet what he was to proclaim, but also
to add authority to his doctrine; and the vision was as it were the
seal, which the Israelites as well as the Jews knew to be a proof,
that what the Prophet declared by his mouth proceeded from heaven.
    It now follows, "Smite the lintel". "Kaphtor" is, I think,
called the cover which is on the top of the posts of the temple; for
the Hebrews call "kaphtorim" apples. As then they painted there
pomegranates and flowers, the Hebrew doctors think that the part
which is above the two posts of the temple is called "kaphtor". But
that part of the entrance might have taken its name from its round
form. However this may be, they called the highest part of the porch
of the temple "Kaphtor". Now the posts sustained that which they
commonly called the lintel. God then says, "Strike the lintel, and
let the posts be moved", or let them shake, let the whole gate of
the temple shake. Then he adds, And strike and break all on the, or
on the head of all. This verb is differently read by interpreters.
Correctly, according to the rule of grammar, it ought to be read in
the third person, "and it will dash to the ground". But some
however, render it thus, "and dash to the ground", or break, because
he had said before, Smite. As to the meaning, it matters not much
for an explanation immediately follows. Now as to what he says, "on
the head", and as to the word "'acharitam", which follows, some by
the head understand the priests and the rulers of the people, which
view I am inclined to embrace; but when they explain "'acharit" to
mean posterity or children, it does not seem to suit this place; for
it ought rather as I think, to he referred to the common people. As
then the Prophet had spoken of the head, he now adds the people in
general. The Hebrews call whatever follows or comes after by
"'acharit". They indeed understand posterity by it, but it is a word
that has variety of meaning: for it is taken for end, for a
footstep, in short, for anything that comes after.
    It is easy now to gather the meaning of the Prophet: A vision
was exhibited to him which showed that it was decreed by God himself
to smite both the chiefs and the common people: and since God begins
with his temple, how can profane men hope for pardon, who had
deserted the true and pure worship of God? They were all apostates:
how then could they have hoped that God would be placable to them,
inasmuch as he had broken down his own temple?
    He now adds, "I will slay with the sword", &c. We see then that
this vision is to be referred to the stroke which was shortly after
to be inflicted. I will slay then with the sword whatever follows,
that is, the common people.
    He afterwards says, "Flee away from them shall not he who
fleeth, nor shall he escape from them who escapeth"; that is though
they may think that flight is possible, their expectation will
deceive them, for I shall catch them. Had the Prophet said that
there would be to them no means of fleeing away, he would not have
spoken with so much severity; but when he says, that when they fled,
he would catch them, that when they thought that they had escaped,
there would be no safety to them, he says what is much more
grievous. In short, he cuts off all hope from the Israelites, that
they might understand that they were certain to perish, because God
had hitherto tried in vain to restore them to the right way.
Inasmuch then as they had been wholly incurable, they now hear that
no hope remained for them.
    And since the Prophet denounces such and so dreadful a
destruction of an elect people, and since the vision was exhibited
to him in the temples there is no reason for us to trust in our
outward profession, and to wait till God's judgments come, as we see
many are doing in our day, who are wholly careless, because they
think that no evil can happen to them, inasmuch as they bear the
name of God. But the Prophet here shows, that God sits in his
temple, not only to protect those whom he has adopted as his people
and peculiar possession, but also to vindicate his own honor,
because the Israelites had corrupted his worship; and the Jews also
had departed from true religion. Since then impiety everywhere
prevailed, he now shows that God sits there as the punisher of sins,
that his people may know that they are not to tolerate those evils,
which for a time he does not punish, as though he had forgotten his
office, or that he designs his favor to be the cover of their
iniquity; but because he designs by degrees to draw to repentance
those, who are healable, and at the same time to take away every
excuse frown the reprobate. Let us proceed -

Amos 9:2-4
2  Though they dig into hell, thence shall mine hand take them;
though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down:
3  And though they hide themselves in the top of Carmel, I will
search and take them out thence; and though they be hid from my
sight in the bottom of the sea, thence will I command the serpent,
and he shall bite them:
4  And though they go into captivity before their enemies, thence
will I command the sword, and it shall slay them: and I will set
mine eyes upon them for evil, and not for good.
    
    Here the Prophet denounces horrible punishments; but not
without reason, for there was astonishing torpidity in that people,
as there is usually in all hypocrites when they have any shadow of
excuse. They were then the only elect people in the whole world.
When, therefore, they thought that they excelled others and that
they were endued with singular privileges beyond all other nations,
this glory inebriated them, and they imagined that God was in a
manner bound to them, as we have seen in other places. This, then,
was the reason why the Prophet in so many ways enlarged on the
judgment of God on hypocrites; it was, that they might be terrified
by the vehemence and severity of his words.
    Hence he says, "If they dig for themselves passages to hell",
that is, to the centre of the earth, for "she'ol" is here put for
the centre; "thence shall my hand draw them forth; and then, If they
ascend to heaven, thence I will draw them down", saith the Lord; "If
they hide themselves in deserts, if they flee to the top of Carmel,
I will truce them out": in short, they shall find no corner either
in heaven, or on the earth, or in the sea, where they can be hid
from my sight. There is no need here to understand by heavens high
citadels, as the Chaldean paraphraser explains it: it is a frigid
paraphrase. But the Prophet speaks in an hyperbolical language of
the centre of the earth, of the heavens, and of the deep of the sea;
as though he had said, "Should all the elements open themselves for
hiding-places, yet the Israelites shall in vain try to escape, for I
will follow them when sunk in the depth of the sea, I will draw them
down from heaven itself; there shall, in a word, be no hiding-place
for them either above or below."
    We now understand the Prophet's meaning; and an useful warning
may be hence gathered, - that when God threatens us, we in vain seek
subterfuges, as his hand extends itself to the lowest deep as well
as to heaven; as it is said in Ps. 139: 7, 'Where shall I flee from
thy presence, O Lord? If I ascend into heaven, thou art there; if I
descend to the grave, thou art present; if I take the wings of the
dawn, (or, of the morning star,) and dwell in the extremities of the
sea, there also shall thy hand lead me.' The Prophet speaks not in
that psalm, as some have very absurdly philosophized, of the
unlimited essence of God; but he rather shows, that we are always in
his sight. So then we ought to feel assured that we cannot escape,
whenever God designs to make a scrutiny as to our sins, and to
summon us to his tribunal.
    But we must at the same time remember, that the Prophet has not
employed a superfluous heap of words; there is not here one syllable
which is not important though at the first view it seems to be
otherwise. But the Holy Spirit, as I have already reminded you,
knowing our heedlessness, does here shake off all our
self-flatteries. There is in us, we know, an innate torpor by
nature, so that we despise all threatenings, or at least we are not
duly moved by them. As the Lord sees us to be so careless, he rouses
us by his goads. Whenever then Scripture denounces punishment on us,
let us at the same time learn to join with it what the Prophet here
relates; "Thou hast to do with God, what can't thou effect now by
evasions? though thou climbest to heaven, the Lord can draw thee
down; though thou descendent to the abyss, God's hand will thence
draw thee forth; if thou seekest a hiding-place in the lowest
depths, he will thence also bring thee forth to the light; and if
thou hidest thyself in the deep sea, he will there find thee out; in
a word, wherever thou betakest thyself, thou canst not withdraw
thyself from the presence and from the hand of God." We hence see
the design of all these expressions, and that is, that we may not
think of God as of ourselves, but that we may know that his power
extends to all hiding-places. But these words ought to be subjects
at meditations though it be sufficient for our purpose to include in
few words what the Prophet had in view. But as we are so entangled
in our vain confidences, the Prophet, as I have said, has not in
vain used so many words.
    Now as to what he says, "I will command the serpent to bite
them, some understand by "nachash" not a serpent on hand, but the
whale, or some other marine animal, as the leviathan, which is
mentioned in Scripture; and we may learn from other parts of
Scripture that "nachash" means not only a serpent, but also a whale
or some animal living in the sea. In a word, God intimates, that he
would be armed everywhere, whenever he should resolve to punish his
adversaries, and that in all elements are means in readiness, by
which he can destroy the wicked, who seek to escape from his hand.
    Now when he says, "If they go into captivity among their
enemies, I will there command the sword to slay them", some
interpreters confine this part to that foolish flight, when a
certain number of the people sought to provide for their safety by
going down into Egypt. Johanan followed them, and a few escaped,
(Jer. 43: 2:) but according to what Jeremiah had foretold, when he
said, 'Bend your necks to the king of Babylon, and the Lord will
bless you; whosoever will flee to Egypt shall perish;' so it
happened: they found this to be really true, though they had ever
refused to believe the prediction. Jeremiah was drawn there contrary
to the wish of his own mind: he had, however, pronounced a curse on
all who thought that it would be an asylum to them. But the Lord
permitted him to be drawn there, that he might to his last breath
pronounce the Woe, which they had before heard from his mouth. But I
hardly dare thus to restrict these expressions of the Prophet: I
therefore explain them generally, as meaning, that exile, which is
commonly said to be a civil death, would not be the end of evils to
the Israelites and to the Jews; for even when they surrendered
themselves to their enemies, and suffered themselves to be led and
drawn away wherever their enemies pleased, they could not yet even
in this way preserve their life, because the Lord would command the
sword to pursue them even when exiles. This, in my view, is the real
meaning of the Prophet.
    He at last subjoins, "I will set my eyes on them for evil, and
not for good". There is a contrast to be understood in this clause:
for the Lord had promised to be a guardian to his people, according
to what is said in Ps. 121: 4, 'Behold, he who guards Israel neither
sleeps nor slumbers.' As hypocrites ever lay hold on the promises of
God without repentance and faith, without any religious feeling, and
afterwards turn them to support their vain boasting, the Prophet
therefore says here, that the eye of God would be upon them, not
indeed in his wonted manner to protect them, as he had done from the
beginning, but, on the contrary, to accumulate punishment on
punishment: it was the same thing as though he said, "As I have
hitherto watched over the safety of this people, whom I have chosen
for myself, so I will hereafter most sedulously watch, that I may
omit no kind of punishment, until they be utterly destroyed."
    And this sentence deserves to be specially noticed; for we are
reminded, that though the Lord does not indeed spare unbelievers, he
yet more closely observes us, and that he will punish us more
severely, if he sees us to be obstinate and incurable to the last.
Why so? Because we have come nearer to him, and he looks on us as
his family, placed under his eyes; not that anything is hid or
concealed from him, but the Scripture speaks after the manner of
men. While God then favors his people with a gracious look, he yet
cannot endure hypocrites; for he minutely observes their vices, that
he may the more severely punish them. This then is the substance of
the whole. It follows -

Amos 9:5
And the Lord GOD of hosts [is] he that toucheth the land, and it
shall melt, and all that dwell therein shall mourn: and it shall
rise up wholly like a flood; and shall be drowned, as [by] the flood
of Egypt.
    
    The Prophet repeats here nearly the same words with those we
explained yesterday: he used then the similitude of a flood, which
he again mentions here. But as the first clause is capable of
various explanations, I will refer to what others think, and then to
what I deem the most correct view. This sentence, that the earth
trembles, when it is smitten by God, is usually regarded as a
general declaration; and the Prophets do often exalt the power of
God in order to fill us with fear, and of this we shall see an
instance in the next verse. Yet I doubt not but that this is a
special threatening. "The Lord Jehovah, then, he says, will smite
the land, and it will tremble".
    Then follows the similitude of which we spoke yesterday, "Mourn
shall all who dwell in it"; and then, It will altogether ascend as a
river". Here he intimates that there would be a deluge, so that the
face of the earth would not appear. Ascend then shall the land as a
river. The ascent of the earth would be nothing else but inundation,
Which would cover its surface. He afterwards adds, "and it shall be
sunk"; that is, every convenience for dwelling: this is not to be
understood strictly, as I have said, of the land, but is rather to
be referred to men, or to the use which men make of the earth. "Sunk
then shall it be as by the river of Egypt". We have said that Egypt
loses yearly its surface, when the Nile inundates it. But as the
inundation of the river is given to the Egyptians for fertilizing
the land and of rendering its produce more abundant, so the Prophet
here declares that the land would be like the sea, so that there
would no longer be any habitation. It now follow -

Amos 9:6
[It is] he that buildeth his stories in the heaven, and hath founded
his troop in the earth; he that calleth for the waters of the sea,
and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The LORD [is] his
name.
    
    The Prophet describes now in general terms the power of God,
that he might the more impress his hearers, and that they might not
heedlessly reject what he had previously threatened respecting their
approaching ruin; for he had said, 'Lo, God will smite the land, and
it shall tremble.' This was special. Now as men received with deaf
ears those threatening, and thought that God in a manner trifled
with them, the Prophet added, by way of confirmation, a striking
description of the power of God; as though he said, "Ye do hear what
God denounces: now, as he has clothed me with his own authority, and
commanded me to terrify you by setting before you your punishment,
know ye that you have to do with God himself, whose majesty ought to
make you all, and all that you are, to tremble: for what sort of
Being is this God, whose word is regarded by you with contempt? God
is he "who builds for himself chambers in the heavens, who founds
his jointings (some render it bundles) in the earth, who calls the
waters of the sea, and pours them on the face of the earth"; in a
word, He is Jehovah, whose being is in himself alone: and ye exist
only through his powers and whenever he pleases, he can with-draw
his Spirits and then vanish must this whole world, of which ye are
but the smallest particles. Since then He alone is God, and there is
in you but a momentary strength, and since this great power of God,
the evidences of which he affords you through the whole order of
nature, is so conspicuous to you, how is it that ye are so
heedless?" We now perceive why the Prophet exalts in so striking a
manner the power of God.
    First, in saying that God "builds for himself his ascendings in
the heavens", he alludes no doubt, to the very structure of the
heavens; for the element of air, we know, rises upwards, on account
of its being light; and then the element of fire comes nearer to
what heaven is; then follow the spheres. as then the whole world
above the earth is much more favorable to motion, this is the reason
why the Prophet says that God has his ascents in the heavens. God
indeed stands in no need of the heavens or of the air as an
habitation, for he is contained in no place, being one who cannot be
contained: but it is said, for the sake of men, that God is above
all heavens: he is then located in his own elevated throne. But he
says that he founds for himself his jointing on the earth, for this
part of the world is more solid, the element of earth being grosser
and denser, and therefore more firm. So also the waters, though
lighter than the earth, approach it nearest. God then builds in the
heavens. It is a mechanism which is in itself wonderful: when one
raises to heaven his eyes, and then looks on the earth, is he not
constrained to stand amazed? The Prophet then exhibits here before
our eyes the inconceivable power of God, that we may be impressed by
his words, and know with whom we have to do, when he denounces
punishment.
    He further says, "Who calls the waters of the sea, and pours
them on the face of the earth". This change is in itself
astonishing; God in a short time covers the whole heaven: there is a
clear brightness, in a moment clouds supervene, which darken the
whole heaven, and thick waters are suspended over our heads. Who
could say that the whole sky could be so suddenly changed? God by
his own command and bidding does all this alone. He calls then the
waters of the sea, and pours them down. Though rains, we know, are
formed in great measure by vapors from the earth, yet we also know
that these vapors arise from the sea, and that the sea chiefly
supplies the dense abundance of moisture. The Prophet then, by
taking a part for the whole, includes here all the vapors, by which
rain is formed. He calls them the waters of the sea; God by his own
power alone creates the rain, by raising vapors from the waters; and
then he causes them to descend on the whole face of the earth. Since
then the Lord works so wonderfully through the whole order of
nature, what do we think will take place, when he puts forth the
infinite power of his hand to destroy men, having resolved to
execute the extreme judgment which he has decreed?
    
Prayer.

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast showed to us by evidences so
remarkable that all things are under thy command, and that we, who
live in this world through thy favor, are as nothing, for thou
couldest reduce us to nothing in a moment, - O grant, that being
conscious of thy power, we may reverently fear thy hand, and be
wholly devoted to thy glory; and as thou kindly offerest thyself to
us as a Father, may we be drawn by this kindness, and surrender
ourselves wholly to thee by a willing obedience, and never labour
for any thing through life but to glorify thy name, as thou hast
redeemed us through thy only begotten Son, that so we may also enjoy
through him that eternal inheritance which is laid up for us in
heaven. Amen.


Lecture Sixty-eighth.

Amos 9:7
[Are] ye not as children of the Ethiopians unto me, O children of
Israel? saith the LORD. Have not I brought up Israel out of the land
of Egypt? and the Philistines from Caphtor, and the Syrians from
Kir?

    The Prophet shows here to the Israelites that their dignity
would be no defense to them, as they expected. We have indeed seen
in many places how foolish was the boasting of that people. Though
they were more bound to God than other nations, they yet heedlessly
boasted that they were a holy nation, as if indeed they had
something of their own, but as Paul says, they were nothing. God had
conferred on them singular benefits; but they were adorned with the
plumes of another. Foolish then and absurd was their glorying, when
they thought themselves to be of more worth in the sight of God than
other nations. But as this foolish conceit had blinded them, the
Prophet says now, "Whom do you think yourselves to be? Ye are to me
as the children of the Ethiopians. I indeed once delivered you, not
that I should be bound to you, but rather that I should have you
bound to me, for ye have been redeemed through my kindness." Some
think that the Israelites are compared to the Ethiopians, as they
had not changed their skin, that is, their disposition; but this
view I reject as strained. For the Prophet speaks here more simply,
namely, that their condition differed nothing from that of the
common class of men: "Ye do excel, but ye have nothing apart from
me; if I take away from you what is mine, what will you have then
remaining?" The emphasis is on the word, "to me", What are ye "to
me"? For certainly they excelled among men; but before God they
could bring nothing, since they had nothing of their own: nay, the
more splendidly God adorned them, the more modestly and humbly they
ought to have conducted themselves, seeing that they were bound to
him for so many of his favors. But as they had forgotten their own
condition, despised all the Prophets and felicitated themselves in
their vices, he says, "Are ye not to me as the children of the
Ethiopians, as foreign and the most alien nations? for what that is
worthy of praise can I find in you? If then I look on you, what are
ye? I certainly see no reason to prefer you even to the most obscure
nations."
    He afterwards adds, "Have I not made to ascend, or brought,
Israel from the land of Egypt?" Here the Prophet reminds them of
their origin. Though they had indeed proceeded from Abraham, who had
been chosen by God four hundred years before their redemption; yet,
if we consider how cruelly they were treated in Egypt, that
tyrannical servitude must certainly appear to have been like the
grave. They then began to be a people, and to attain some name, when
the Lord delivered them from Egypt. The Prophet's language is the
same as though he had said, "Look whence the Lord has brought you
out; for ye were as a dead carcass, and of no account: for the
Egyptians treated your fathers as the vilest slaves: God brought you
thence; then you have no nobility or excellency of your own, but the
beginning of your dignity has proceeded from the gratuitous kindness
of God. Yet ye think now that ye excel others, because ye have been
redeemed: God has also redeemed the Philistines, when they were the
servants of the Cappadocians; and besides, he redeemed the Syrians
when they were servants to other nations."
    Some take "kir" to mean Cyrene; but as this is uncertain, I
pass it by as doubtful. Whatever it was, there is no ground of
dispute about the subject itself; for it is certain that the
Israelites are here compared with the Philistines as well as with
the Syrians, inasmuch as all had been alike redeemed by the Lord,
and this favor was common to all of whom he speaks. As God then
pitied in former ages other nations, it was certainly not peculiar
to the race of Abraham, that they had been freed by God, and by
means of extraordinary miracles: "Even the Philistine will say the
same, and the Syrians will say the same; but yet ye say that they
are profane nations. Since it is so, ye are now divested of all
excellency, that is, there is nothing of your own in you, that ye
should exalt yourselves above other nations." This is the meaning.
It now follows -

Amos 9:8,9
Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD [are] upon the sinful kingdom, and
I will destroy it from off the face of the earth; saving that I will
not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, saith the LORD.
For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among
all nations, like as [corn] is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the
least grain fall upon the earth.

    Here the Prophet concludes that God would take vengeance on the
Israelites as on other nations, without any difference; for they
could not set up anything to prevent his judgment. It was indeed an
extraordinary blindness in the Israelites, who were doubly guilty of
ingratitude, to set up as their shield the benefits with which they
had been favored. Though then the name of God had been wickedly and
shamefully profaned by them, they yet thought that they were safe,
because they had been once adopted. This presumption Amos now beats
down. "Behold, he says, the eyes of the Lord Jehovah are upon all
the wicked". Some restrict this to the kingdom of Israel, but, in my
opinion, such a view militates against the design of the Prophet. He
speaks indefinitely of all kingdoms as though he had said, that God
would be the judge of the whole world, that he would spare no
kingdoms or countries. God then will show himself everywhere to be
the punisher of vices, and will summon all kingdoms before his
tribunal, "By destroying I will destroy from the face of the earth
all the ungodly and the wicked".
    Now the second clause I understand otherwise than most do: for
they think it contains a mitigation of punishment, as the Prophets
are wont to blend promises of favor with threatening, and as our
Prophet does in this chapter. But it seems not to me that anything
is promised to the Israelites: nay, if I am not much mistaken, it is
an ironical mode of speaking; for Amos obliquely glances here at
that infatuated presumption, of which we have spoken, that the
Israelites thought that they were safe through some peculiar
privilege, and that they were to be exempt from all punishment: "I
will not spare unbelievers," he says, "who excuse themselves by
comparing themselves with you. Shall I tolerate your sins and not
dare to touch you, seeing that you know yourselves to be doubly
wicked?" We must indeed notice in what other nations differed from
the Israelites; for the more the children of Abraham had been
raised, the more they increased their guilt when they despised God,
the author of so many blessings, and became basely wanton by shaking
off, as it were, the yoke. Since then they so ungratefully abused
God's blessings, God might then have spared other nations: it was
therefore necessary to bring them to punishment, for they were
wholly inexcusable. As then they exceeded all other nations in
impiety, the Prophet very properly reasons here from the greater to
the less: "I take an account," he says, "of all the sins which are
in the world, and no nations shall escape my hand: how then can the
Israelites escape? For other nations can plead some ignorance, as
they have never been taught; and that they go astray in darkness is
no matter of wonder. But ye, to whom I have given light, and whom I
have daily exhorted to repent, - shall ye be unpunished? How could
this be? I should not then be the judge of the world." We now then
perceive the real meaning of the Prophet: "Lo," he says "the eyes of
Jehovah are upon every sinful kingdom; I will destroy all the
nations who have sinned from the face of the earth, though they have
the pretence of ignorance for their sins; shall I not now, forsooth,
destroy the house of Israel?" Here then the Prophet speaks
ironically, Except that I shall not destroy by destroying the house
of Israel; that is, "Do you wish me to be subservient to you, as
though my hands were tied, that I could not take vengeance on you?
what right have you to do this? and what can hinder me from
punishing ingratitude so great and so shameful?"
    He afterwards adds, "For, lo, I will command," &c. The Prophet
here confirms the former sentence; and hence I conclude that the
second part of the preceding verse is ironically expressed; for if
he had promised pardon to the Israelites, he would have gone on with
the same subject; but, on the contrary, he proceeds in another
direction, and says, that God would justly punish the Israelites;
for the event would at length make it known, that among them not
even a grain would be found, but that all would be like chaff or
refuse: "Lo, he says, I will shake among the nations the Israelites
as corn is shaken in a sieve: a grain, he says, shall not fall on
the earth"; as though he said, "Though I shall scatter the
Israelites through various places that they may be dispersed here
and there, yet this exile shall ever be like a sieve: they now
contend with me, when any grain has fallen. The event then shall
show, that there is in them nothing but chaff and filth; for I will
by sieving cleanse my whole floor, and nothing shall be found to
remain on it." If one objects and says, that there were some godly
persons in that nation, though very small in number. This I admit to
be true: but the Prophet speaks here, as in many other places, of
the whole nation; he refers not to individuals. It was then true,
with regard to the body of the people of Israel, that there was not
one among them who could be compared to grain, for all had become
empty through their iniquities; and hence they necessarily
disappeared in the sieve, and were like chaff or refuse.
    But it must be observed, that God here cuts off the handle for
evasion, for hypocrites ever contend with him; and although they
cannot wholly clear themselves, they yet extenuate their sins, and
accuse God of too much severity. The Prophet then anticipates such
objections, "I will command," he says, "and will shake the house of
Israel as corn is shaken." It was a very hard lot, when the people
were thus driven into different parts of the world; it was indeed a
dreadful tearing. The Israelites might have complained that they
were too severely treated; but God by this similitude obviates this
calumny, "They are indeed scattered in their exile, yet they remain
in a sieve; I will shake them, he says, among the nations: but not
otherwise than corn when shaken in a sieve:" and it is allowed by
the consent of all that corn ought to be cleansed. Though the
greater part disappears when the corn, threshed on the floor, is
afterwards subjected to the fan; yet there is no one but sees that
this is necessary and reasonable: no one complains that the chaff
thus perishes. Why so? Because it is useless. God then shows that he
is not cruel, nor exceeds moderation, though he may scatter his
people through the remote regions of the earth, for he ever keeps
them in a sieve.
    He afterwards adds, "And fall shall not a grain on the earth".
They translate "tsror" a stone, but "tsarar" is to tie, and hence
this word means what is collected or, binding, as when the children
of Jacob had their money tied in their sacks, they said, 'Behold my
binding;' so also now it is taken for the solid grain. God then
intimates that he would not be so rigid as not to moderate his
punishment, so as to spare the innocent. I have already said that
though there would be still a remnant among the people, yet what the
Prophet says is true as to the whole body; for it had nothing either
sound or pure. But this objection might be made: It is certain that
many faithful worshipers of God were taken away into exile with the
wicked; they then fell on the earth as useless chaff or refuse; but
God denies that this would be the case. To this I answer, that
though the Lord involves his servants with the ungodly when he
executes temporal punishment, he is yet ever propitious to them; and
it is certain, that however hardly they may be dealt with, they yet
do not expostulate; they groan, indeed, but at the same time they
acknowledge that they are mercifully treated by the Lord.
    But another thing must also be remembered, - that though the
Lord would not have dealt so severely with his people, had they been
like the few who were good, yet not one of them was without some
fault. Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Shadrach, Meshech, and
Abednego, were indeed like angels among men; and it was indeed a
miracle, that they stood upright in the midst of so much impiety;
they were yet led into captivity. When they approached God, they
could not object, that they were punished beyond what they deserved.
Worthy, indeed, was Jeremiah of heavier punishment; and so was
Daniel, though an example of the highest and even of angelic
integrity. God then could have cast them away as refuse: it is
nevertheless certain that they were wheat; and the Lord shook them
in the sieve like the chaff, yet so as ever to keep them gathered
under his protection; but at the same time in a hidden manner: as,
for instance, the wheat on the floor is beaten together with the
chaff, this is common to both; no difference can be observed in the
threshing. True is this, and the case is the same when the wheat is
being winnowed. When therefore the wheat is gathered, it is,
together with the chaff, to be sifted by the fan, without any
difference; but the wheat remains. So also it happened to the pious
worshipers of God; the Lord kept them collected in the sieve. But
here he speaks of the people in general; and he says that the whole
people were like refuse and filth, and that they vanished, because
there was no solidity in them, no use to be made of them, so that no
one remained in the sieve. That God then preserved his servants, was
an instance of his wonderful working. But the denunciation of
punishment, here spoken of, belonged to the outward dealings of God.
As then the people were like refuse or chaff shaken and driven to
various places, this happened to them justly, because nothing solid
was found in them. It now follows -

Amos 9:10
All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, which say, The
evil shall not overtake nor prevent us.
    
    Amos goes on with the same subject, - that God without any
measure of cruelty would execute extreme vengeance on a reprobate
people: "Die, he says, by the sword all the wicked of my people". In
naming the wicked of the people, he meant no doubt to include the
whole people; though if any one thinks that the elect are by
implication excepted, who were mixed with the ungodly, I do not
object: this is probable; but yet the Prophet speaks here of the
people generally. He says that the wicked of the people would perish
by the sword: for it was not the sin of a few that Amos here refers
to, but the sin which prevailed among the whole nation. Then all the
wicked of my people shall die by the sword. He points out what sort
of people they were, or at least he mentions the chief mark by which
their impiety might be discovered, - they obstinately despised all
the judgments of God, "They say, It will not draw near; nor lay hold
on our account, the evil".
    Security then, which of itself ever generates a contempt of
God, is here mentioned as the principal mark of impiety. And
doubtless the vices of men reach a point that is past hope, when
they are touched neither by fear nor shame, but expect God's
judgments without any concern or anxiety. Since then they thus drove
far away from themselves all threatening, while at the same time
they were ill at ease with themselves, and as it were burying
themselves in deep caverns, and seeking false peace to their
consciences, they were in a torpor, or rather stupor, incapable of
any remedy. It is, therefore, no wonder that the Prophet lays down
here this mark of security, when he is showing that there was no
remnant of a sound mind in this people. Die then shall all the
wicked by the sword, even those who say, It will not draw near; nor
anticipate us, on our account, the evil: for we can not explain the
word "takdim" in any other way than by referring it to the
threatening. For the Prophets, we know, commonly declared that the
day of the Lord was at hand, that his hand was already armed, that
it had already seized the sword. As then the Prophets, in order to
smite despisers with fear, were wont to threaten a near punishment;
so the Prophet does here; wishing to expose the impious stupor of
the people, he says, "You think that there will not be such haste as
is foretold to you by the Prophets; but this sheer perverseness will
be the cause of your ruin."
    As to the expression, It will not come "on our account", from a
regard to us, it deserves to be noticed. Though hypocrites confess
in general, that they cannot escape the hand of God, yet they still
separate themselves from the common class, as if they are secured by
some peculiar privilege. They therefore set up something in
opposition to God, that they may not be blended with others. This
folly the Prophet indirectly condemns by saying, that hypocrites are
in a quiet and tranquil state, because they think that there will be
to them no evil in common with the rest, as also they say in Isa.
28: 15, 'The scourge, if it passes, will not yet reach us.' We now
then see what the Prophet has hitherto taught, and the meaning of
these four verses which we have just explained. Now follows the
promise -

Amos 9:11
In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen,
and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins,
and I will build it as in the days of old:

    Here now the Prophet begins to set forth the consolation, which
alone could support the minds of the godly under afflictions so
severe. Threatening alone might have cast the strongest into
despair; but the event itself must have overwhelmed whatever hope
there might have been. Hence the Prophet now applies comfort by
saying, that God would punish the sins of the people of Israel in
such a way as to remember still his own promise. We know, that
whenever the Prophets designed to give some hope to a distressed
people, they set forth the Messiah, for in him all the promises of
God, as Paul says, are Yea and Amen, (2 Cor. 1: 20:) and there was
no other remedy for the dispersion than for God to gather all the
scattered members under one head. Hence, when the head is taken
away, the Church has no head; especially when it is scattered and
torn, as was the case after the time of Amos. It is no wonder then
that the Prophets, after having prophesied of the destruction of the
people, such as happened after the two kingdoms were abolished,
should recall the minds of the faithful to the Messiah; for except
God had gathered the Church under one head, there would have been no
hope. This is, therefore, the order which Amos now observes.
    "In that day, he says, will I raise up the tabernacle of David:
as though he had said, that the only hope would be, when the
redeemers who had been promised would appear. This is the import of
the whole. After having shown then that the people had no hope from
themselves, for God had tried all means, but in vain and after
having denounced their final ruin, he now subjoins, "The Lord will
yet have mercy on his people, for he will remember his covenant."
How will this be? "The Redeemer shall come." We now then understand
the design of the Prophet and the meaning of the verse.
    But when he speaks of the tabernacle of David, he refers, I
doubt not, to the decayed state of things; for a tabernacle does not
comport with royal dignity. It is the same as though Amos had said,
"Though the house of David is destitute of all excellency, and is
like a mean cottage, yet the Lord will perform what he has promised;
he will raise up again his kingdom, and restore to him all the power
which has been lost." The Prophet then had regard to that
intervening time, when the house of David was deprived of all
splendor and entirely thrown down. I will then raise up the
tabernacle of David: he might have said the tabernacle of Jesse; but
he seems to have designedly mentioned the name of David, that he
might the more fully strengthen the minds of the godly in their
dreadful desolation, so that they might with more alacrity flee to
the promise: for the name of Jesse was more remote. As then the name
of David was in repute, and as this oracle, 'Of the fruit of thy
loins I will set on thy throne,' (Ps. 132: 11,) was commonly known,
the Prophet brings forward here the house of David, in order that
the faithful might remember that God had not in vain made a covenant
with David: "The tabernacle then of David will I then raise up, and
will fence in its breaches, and its ruins will I raise up"; and I
will build "it as in the days of old". Thus the Prophet intimates
that not only the throne of David would be overthrown but also that
nothing would remain entire in his mean booth, for it would decay
into ruins and all things would be subverted. In short, he intimates
that mournful devastation would happen to the whole family of David.
He speaks, as it is well understood, metaphorically of the
tabernacle: but the sense is clear, and that is, that God would
restore the royal dignity, as in former times, to the throne of
David.
    This is a remarkable prediction, and deserves to be carefully
weighed by us. It is certain that the Prophet here refers to the
advent of Christ; and of this there is no dispute, for even the Jews
are of this opinion, at least the more moderate of them. There are
indeed those of a shameless front, who pervert all Scripture without
any distinction: these and their barking we may pass by. It is
however agreed that this passage of the Prophet cannot be otherwise
explained than of the Messiah: for the restitution of David's family
was not to be expected before his time; and this may easily be
learnt from the testimonies of other Prophets. As then the Prophet
here declares, that a Redeemer would come, who would renew the whole
state of the kingdom, we see that the faith of the Fathers was ever
fixed on Christ; for in the whole world it is he alone who has
reconciled us to God: so also, the fallen Church could not have been
restored otherwise than under one head, as we have already often
stated. If then at this day we desire to raise up our minds to God,
Christ must immediately become a Mediator between us; for when he is
taken away, despair will ever overwhelm us, nor can we attain any
sure hope. We may indeed be raised up by some wind or another; but
our empty confidence will shortly come to nothing, except we have a
confidence founded on Christ alone. This is one thing.
    We must secondly observe, that the interruption, when God
overthrew the kingdom, I mean, the kingdom of Judah, is not
inconsistent with the prediction of Jacob and other similar
predictions. Jacob indeed had said, 'Taken away shall not be the
sceptre from Judah, nor a lawgiver from his bosom, or from his feet,
until he shall come, the Shiloh,' (Gen. 49: 10.) Afterwards followed
this memorable promise, 'Sit of thy progeny on thy throne shall he,
who shall call me his Father, and in return I will call him my Son,
and his throne shall perpetually remain,' (Ps. 132: 11,12.) Here is
promised the eternity of the kingdom; and yet we see that this
kingdom was diminished under Rehoboam, we see that it was distressed
with many evils through its whole progress, and at length it was
miserably destroyed, and almost extinguished; nay, it had hardly the
name of a kingdom, it had no splendor, no throne, no dignity, no
sceptre, no crown. It then follows, that there seems to be an
inconsistency between these events and the promises of God. But the
Prophets easily reconcile these apparent contrarieties; for they
say, that for a time there would be no kingdom, or at least that it
would be disturbed by many calamities, so that there would appear no
outward form of a kingdom, and no visible glory. As then they say
this, and at the same time add, that there would come a restoration,
that God would establish this kingdom by the power of his Christ, -
as then the Prophets say this, they show that its perpetuity would
really appear and be exhibited in Christ. Though then the kingdom
had for some time fallen, this does not militate against the other
predictions. This then is the right view of the subject: for Christ
at length appeared, on whose head rests the true diadem or crown,
and who has been elected by Gods and is the legitimate king, and
who, having risen from the dead, reigns and now sits at the Father's
right hand, and his throne shall not fail to the end of the world;
nay, the world shall be renovated, and Christ's kingdom shall
continue, though in another form, after the resurrection, as Paul
shows to us; and yet Christ shall be really a king for ever.
    And the Prophet, by saying, "as in ancient days", confirms this
truth, that the dignity of the kingdom would not continue uniform,
but that the restoration would yet be such as to make it clearly
evident that God had not in vain promised an eternal kingdom to
David. Flourish then shall the kingdom of David for ever. But this
has not been the case; for when the people returned from exile,
Zerobabel, it is true, and also many others, obtained kingly power;
yet what was it but precarious? They became even tributaries to the
kings of the Persian and of the Medes. It then follows, that the
kingdom of Israel never flourished, nor had there existed among the
people anything but a limited power; we must, therefore, necessarily
come to Christ and his kingdom. We hence see that the words of the
Prophet cannot be otherwise understood than of Christ. It follows -

Amos 9:12
That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen,
which are called by my name, saith the LORD that doeth this.
    
    By these words the Prophet shows that the kingdom under Christ
would be more renowned and larger than it had ever been under David.
Since then the kingdom had been greatest in dignity, and wealth, and
power, in the age of David, the Prophet here says, that its borders
would be enlarged; for then he says, "Possess shall the Israelites
the remnant of Edom". He speaks here in common of the Israelites and
of the Jews, as before, at the beginning of the last chapter, he
threatened both. But we now apprehend what he means, - that Edom
shall come under the yoke.
    And it is sufficiently evident why he mentions here especially
the Idumeans, and that is because they had been most inveterate
enemies; and vicinity gave them greater opportunity for doing harm.
As then the Idumeans harassed the miserable Jews, and gave them no
respite, this is the reason why the Prophet says that they would
come under the power of his elect people. He afterwards adds, that
all nations would come also to the Jews. He speaks first of the
Idumeans, but he also adds all other nations. I cannot finish
to-day.
    
Prayer.
    
Grant, Almighty God, that as we see everywhere so many evident
tokens of thy displeasure, and more grievous ones are impeding, if
we indeed duly consider how grievously we have provoked thy wrath,
and how wickedly also the whole world at this day rages against thee
and at the same time abuses thy many and excellent benefits, - O
grant, that we may ever remember thy covenant and entertain a
perpetual confidence in thy only-begotten Son, that whenever it may
please thee to sift us, thou mayest keep us in safety, until we
come, not into any earthly storehouse but into thy celestial
kingdom, where we may become partakers of that glory which thy Son
has obtained for us, who has once for all redeemed us that we may
ever remain under his guardianship and protection. Amen.


Lecture Sixty-ninth.
    
    In yesterday's Lecture, we could not finish the verse in which
Amos says, that the Idumeans and other nations would come under the
power of the people of God. As to the first clause there is no
ambiguity, but the latter admits of two meanings. Some take its
sense to be this, "Other nations on whom my name is called:" and
others refer this to the children of Abraham in this way, "That
possess the remnants of Edom and all nations they may, upon whom,"
&c.; that is, that they on whom my name is called, even the
descendants of Abraham, may possess the Idumeans and all other
nations. If we choose the reference to be made to the chosen people,
the order of the words seems to be somewhat broken; and yet this
sense is very suitable, - that possess their enemies the faithful
may, on whom my name is called; for the reason appears to be here
expressed by the Prophet, why he promised a large kingdom to the
Israelites, and that is, because they were enrolled in God's name,
the Lord owned them as his people, inasmuch as he had chosen and
adopted them in the person of their father Abraham. But if the other
view be more approved, then the particle "'asher" is not, as I
think, a pronoun relative, but an adverb expressing a cause, "That
they may possess the remnants of Edom and all nations, for my name
shall have been, or shall be, called on them:" for who can have
possession of this right or title but those who, having been aliens,
shall pass over into the family of Abraham? Israel is indeed said to
possess whatever comes from another quarter, and is incorporated
into the body of the Church.
    But on this point I will not contend; for this main thing is
evident to us, - that the extension of the kingdom under Christ is
here promised as though he had said that the Jews were included
within narrow bounds, even when the kingdom of David especially
flourished, but that God would under Christ extend their borders,
and cause them to rule far and wide. What it is to call God's name
on a people, we have elsewhere stated. Let us now go on with the
context.

Amos 9:13
Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that the plowman shall
overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed;
and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall
melt.

    Here the Prophet describes the felicity which shall be under
the reign of Christ: and we know that whenever the Prophets set
forth promises of a happy and prosperous state to God's people, they
adopt metaphorical expressions, and say, that abundance of all good
things shall flow, that there shall be the most fruitful produce,
that provisions shall be bountifully supplied; for they accommodated
their mode of speaking to the notions of that ancient people; it is
therefore no wonders if they sometimes speak to them as to children.
At the same time, the Spirit under these figurative expressions
declares, that the kingdom of Christ shall in every way be happy and
blessed, or that the Church of God, which means the same thing,
shall be blessed, when Christ shall begin to reign.
    Hence he says, "Coming are the days, saith Jehovah, and the
plowman shall draw nigh, or meet, the reaper". The Prophet no doubt
refers to the blessing mentioned by Moses in Lev. 26: for the
Prophets borrowed thence their mode of speaking, to add more credit
and authority to what they taught. And Moses uses nearly the same
words, - that the vintage shall meet the harvest, and also that
sowing shall meet the plowing: and this is the case, when God
supplies abundance of corn and wine, and when the season is pleasant
and favorable. We then see what the Prophet means, that is, that God
would so bless his people, that he would suffer no lack of good
things.
    "The plowman then shall come nigh the reaper; and the treader
of grapes, the bearer of seed". When they shall finish the harvest,
they shall begin to plow, for the season will be most favorable; and
then when they shall complete their vintage, they shall sow. Thus
the fruitfulness, as I have said, of all produce is mentioned.
    The Prophet now speaks in a hyperbolical language, and says,
"Mountains shall drop sweetness, and all the hills shall melt", that
is, milk shall flow down. We indeed know that this has never
happened; but this manner of speaking is common and often occurs in
Scripture. The sum of the whole is, that there will be no common or
ordinary abundance of blessings, but what will exceed belief, and
even the course of nature, as the very mountains shall as it were
flow down. It now follows -

Amos 9:14
And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and
they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit [them]; and they
shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also
make gardens, and eat the fruit of them.
    
    As the prophecy we have noticed was one difficult to be
believed, especially when the people were led away into exile, the
Prophet comes to the help of this lack of faith, and shows that this
would be no hindrance to God to lead his people to the felicity of
which he speaks. These things seem indeed to be quite contrary, the
one to the other, - that the people, spoiled of all dignity, should
be driven to a far country to live in miserable exile, and that they
should also be scattered into various parts and oppressed by base
tyranny; - and that at the same time a most flourishing condition
should be promised them, and that such an extension of their kingdom
should be promised them, as had never been previously witnessed.
Lest then their present calamities should fill their minds with fear
and bind them fast in despair; he says that the Israelites shall
return from exile, not indeed all; but as we have already seen, this
promise is addressed to the elect alone: at the same time he speaks
here simply of the people. But, this prophecy is connected with
other prophecies: it ought not therefore to be extended except to
that remnant seed, of whom we have before taken notice.
    "Restore then will I the captivity of my people Israel"; and
then, "They shall build nested cities and dwell there; they shall
plant vineyards, and their wine shall they drink; they shall make
gardens, and shall eat their fruit". He reminds the people here of
the blessings mentioned in the Law. They must indeed have known that
the hand of the Lord was opposed to them in their exile. Hence the
Prophet now shows, that as soon as the Lord would again begin to be
propitious to them, there would be a new state of things; for when
God shows his smiling countenance, prosperity follows and a blessed
success in all things. This then is what the Prophet now intends to
show, that the miserable exiles might not faint in despair, when the
Lord chastised them. It follows at last -

Amos 9:15
And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be
pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD
thy God.
    
    The Prophet further mentions here a quiet dwellings in the
land, for it was not enough for the people to be restored to their
country, except they lived there in safety and quietness; for they
might soon afterwards have been removed again. It would have been
better for them to pine away in exile, than to be restored for the
sake, as it were, of sporting with them, and in a short time to be
again conquered by their enemies, and to be led away into another
country. Therefore the Prophet says, that the people, when restored,
would be in a state of tranquillity.
    And he uses a most suitable comparison, when he says, "I will
plant them in their own land, nor shall they be pulled up any more":
for how can we have a settled place to dwell in, except the Lord
locates us somewhere? We are indeed as it were flitting beings on
the earth, and we may at any moment be tossed here and there as the
chaff. We have therefore no settled dwelling, except as far as we
are planted by the hand of God, or as far as God assigns to us a
certain habitation, and is pleased to make us rest in quietness.
This is what the Prophet means by saying, "I will plant them in
their own land, nor shall they any more be pulled up". How so?
"Because, he says, I have given to them the land". He had indeed
given it to them before, but he suffered them to be pulled up when
they had polluted the land. But now God declares that his grace
would outweigh the sins of the people; as though he said, "However
unworthy the people are, who dwell in this land, my gift will yet be
effectual: for I will not regard what they deserve at my hands, but
as I have given them this land, they shall obtain it." We now
apprehend the meaning of the Prophet.
    Now, if we look on what afterwards happened, it may appear that
this prophecy has never been fulfilled. The Jews indeed returned to
their own country, but it was only a small number: and besides, it
was so far from being the case, that they ruled over neighbouring
nations, that they became on the contrary tributaries to them: and
further still, the limits of their rule were ever narrow, even when
they were able to shake off the yoke. In what sense then has God
promised what we have just explained? We see this when we come to
Christ; for it will then be evident that nothing has been in vain
foretold: though the Jews have not ruled as to the outward
appearance, yet the kingdom of God was then propagated among all
nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun; and then, as we
have said in other places, the Jews reigned.
    Further, what is here said of the abundance of corn and wine,
must be explained with reference to the nature of Christ's kingdom.
As then the kingdom of Christ is spiritual, it is enough for us,
that it abounds in spiritual blessings: and the Jews, whom God
reserved for himself as a remnant, were satisfied with this
spiritual abundance.
    If any one objects and says, that the Prophet does not speak
here allegorically; the answer is ready at hand, even this, - that
it is a manner of speaking everywhere found in Scripture, that a
happy state is painted as it were before our eyes, by setting before
us the conveniences of the present life and earthly blessings: this
may especially be observed in the Prophets, for they accommodated
their style, as we have already stated, to the capacities of a rude
and weak people. But as this subject has been discussed elsewhere
more at large, I only touch on it now as in passing and lightly. Now
follows the Prophecy of Obadiah, who is commonly called Abdiah.



End of the Commentaries on Amos.