Amos 3

CHAPTER III

This chapter begins with reproving the twelve tribes in

general, 1, 2;

and then particularly the kingdom of Israel, whose capital was

Samaria. Thee prophet assures them that, while they were at

variance with God, it would be unreasonable in them to expect

his presence or favour, 3-8.

Other neighbouring nations are then called upon to take warning

from the judgments about to be inflicted upon the house of

Israel, which would be so general that only a small remnant

should escape them, 9-15.

The image used by the prophet on this occasion, (see Am 3:12,)

and borrowed from his former calling, is very natural and

significant, and not a little dignified by the inspired

writer's lofty air and manner.

NOTES ON CHAP. III

Verse 1. Against the whole family] That is, all, both the

kingdoms of Israel and Judah. In this all the twelve tribes are

included.

Verse 2. You only have I known] I have taken no other people to

be my own people. I have approved of you, loved you, fed,

sustained, and defended you; but because you have forsaken me,

have become idolatrous and polluted, therefore will I punish you.

And the punishment shall be in proportion to the privileges you

have enjoyed, and the grace you have abused.

Verse 3. Can two walk together] While ye loved and served me, I

dwelt in you and walked among you. Now ye are become alienated

from me, your nature and mine are totally opposite. I am holy, ye

are unholy. We are no longer agreed, and can no longer walk

together. I can no longer hold communion with you. I must cast you

out. The similes in this and the three following verses are all

chosen to express the same thing, viz., that no calamities or

judgments can fall upon any people but by the express will of God,

on account of their iniquities; and that whatever his prophets

have foretold, they have done it by direct revelation from their

Maker; and that God has the highest and most cogent reason for

inflicting the threatened calamities. This correctness of the

prophets' predictions shows that they and I are in communion.

Verse 4. Will a lion roar] Should I threaten such a judgment

without cause?

Verse 5. Can a bird fall in a snare] Can ye, as a sinful people,

fall into calamities which I have not appointed?

Shall one take up a snare-and have taken nothing] Will the snare

be removed before it has caught the expected prey?-shall I remove

my judgments till they are fully accomplished? This is a curious

passage, and deserves farther consideration. The original,

literally translated, is nearly as follows: "Shall the trap arise

from the ground; and catching, shall it not catch?" Here is a

plain allusion to such traps as we employ to catch rats, foxes,

&c. The jaws of the trap opening backward, press strongly upon a

spring so as to keep it down; and a key passing over one jaw, and

hooking on a table in the centre, the trap continues with expanded

jaws, till any thing touch the table, when the key, by the motion

of the table, being loosened, the spring recovers all its elastic

power, and throws up the jaws of the trap, and their serrated

edges either close in each other, or on the prey that has moved

the table of the trap. Will then the jaws of such a trap suddenly

spring up from the ground, on which before they were lying flat,

and catch nothing? Shall they let the prey that was within them

escape? Certainly not. So my trap is laid for these offenders; and

when it springs up, (and they themselves will soon by their

transgressions free the key,) shall not the whole family of Israel

be inclosed in it? Most certainly they shall. This is a singular

and very remarkable passage, and, when properly understood, is

beautifully expressive.

Verse 6. Shall a trumpet be blown] The sign of alarm and

invasion.

And the people not be afraid?] Not take the alarm, and provide

for their defence and safety?

Shall there be evil in a city] Shall there be any public

calamity on the wicked, that is not an effect of my displeasure?

The word does not mean moral evil, but punishment for sin;

calamities falling on the workers of iniquity. Natural evil is the

punishment of moral evil: God sends the former when the latter is

persisted in.

Verse 7. Surely the Lord God will do nothing] In reference to

the punishment, correction, or blessing of his people-

But he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.]

They are in strict correspondence with him, and he shows them

things to come. Such secrets of God are revealed to them, that

they may inform the people; that, by repentance and conversion,

they may avoid the evil, and, by walking closely with God, secure

the continuance of his favour.

Verse 8. The lion hath roared,] God hath sent forth a terrible

alarm, Who will not fear? Can any hear such denunciations of

Divine wrath and not tremble?

The Lord God hath spoken] And those only who are in communion

with him have heard the speech. Who can but prophesy? Who can help

proclaiming at large the judgment threatened against the nation?

But I think naba, here, is to be taken in its natural and

ideal signification, to pray, supplicate, or deprecate vengeance.

The Lord hath spoken of punishment-who can help supplicating his

mercy, that his judgments may be averted?

Verse 9. Publish in the palaces] The housetops or flat roofs

were the places from which public declarations were made. See on

Isa 21:1, and on Mt 10:27. See whether in those places there

be not tumults, oppressions, and rapine sufficient to excite my

wrath against them.

Verse 10. For they know not to do right] So we may naturally say

that they who are doing wrong, and to their own prejudice and

ruin, must certainly be ignorant of what is right, and what is

their own interest. But we say again, "There are none so blind as

those who will not see." Their eyes, saith the Lord, they have

closed.

Verse 11. An adversary, round about the land] Ye shall not be

able to escape, wherever ye turn, ye shall meet a foe.

Verse 12. As the shepherd taketh out of the mouth of the lion]

Scarcely any of you shall escape; and those that do shall do so

with extreme difficulty, just as a shepherd, of a whole sheep

carried away by a lion, can recover no more than two of its legs,

or a piece of its ear, just enough to prove by the marks on those

parts, that they belonged to a sheep which was his own.

So shall the children of Israel be taken out] Those of them that

escape these judgments shall escape with as great difficulty, and

be of as little worth, as the two legs and piece of an ear that

shall be snatched out of the lion's mouth. We know that when the

Babylonians carried away the people into Chaldea they left behind

only a few, and those the refuse of the land.

In the corner of a bed] As the corner is the most honourable

place in the East, and a couch in the corner of a room is the

place of the greatest distinction; so the words in the text may

mean, that even the metropolitan cities, which are in the

corner-in the most honourable place-of the land, whether

Samaria in Israel, or Damascus in Syria, shall not escape

these judgments; and if any of the distinguished persons who dwell

in them escape, it must be with as great difficulty as the

fragments above-mentioned have been recovered from a lion. The

passage is obscure. Mr. Harmer has taken great pains to illustrate

it; but I fear with but little success. A general sense is all we

can arrive at.

Verse 13. Hear ye] This is an address to the prophet.

Verse 14. In the day that I shall visit] When Josiah made a

reformation in the land he destroyed idolatry, pulled down the

temples and altars that had been consecrated to idol worship, and

even burnt the bones of the priests of Baal and the golden calves

upon their own altars. See 2Ki 23:15, 16, &c.

Verse 15. I will smite the winter house with the summer house] I

will not only destroy the poor habitations and villages in the

country, but I will destroy those of the nobility and gentry as

well as the lofty palaces in the fortified cities in which they

dwell in the winter season, as those light and elegant seats in

which they spend the summer season. Dr. Shaw observes that "the

hills and valleys round about Algiers are all over beautified with

gardens and country seats, whither the inhabitants of better

fashion retire during the heats of the summer season. They are

little white houses, shaded with a variety of fruit trees and

evergreens, which beside shade and retirement, afford a gay and

delightful prospect toward the sea. The gardens are all well

stocked with melons, fruits, and pot herbs of all kinds; and

(which is chiefly regarded in these hot countries) each of them

enjoys a great command of water."

And the houses of ivory] Those remarkable for their magnificence

and their ornaments, not built of ivory, but in which ivory

vessels, ornaments, and inlaying abounded. Thus, then, the winter

houses and the summer houses, the great houses and the houses

of uncommon splendour, shall all perish. There should be a total

desolation in the land. No kind of house should be a refuge, and

no kind of habitation should be spared. Ahab had at Samaria a

house that was called the ivory house, 1Ki 22:39. This may be

particularly referred to in this place. We cannot suppose that a

house constructed entirely of ivory can be intended.

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