The Words of Amos

Chapter 5

A lamentation for Israel, 1-3. An exhortation to repentance, 4-20. God rejects their hypocritical service, 21-27.

1 Hear this word which I take up against you, even a lamentation, O house of Israel.

2 "The virgin of Israel has fallen. She shall no longer rise! She is forsaken upon her land. There is no one to raise her up."

3 For thus says the Lord GOD: "The city that went out by one thousand shall leave one hundred, and that which went forth by one hundred shall leave ten to the house of Israel."

4 For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel: "Seek me and you shall live.

5 But do not seek Beth-el, nor enter into Gilgal, and do not pass to Beer-sheba, for Gilgal shall surely go into captivity and Beth-el shall come to nothing.

6 Seek the LORD and you shall live, lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph and devour it and there be no one to quench it in Beth-el.

7 You who turn judgment to wormwood and leave off righteousness on the earth,

8 Seek him who makes the seven stars and Orion, turns the shades of death into the morning, makes the day dark with night, who calls for the waters of the sea, and pours them out upon the face of the earth. YAHWEH is his name.

9 He strengthens the spoiled against the strong, so that the spoiled shall come against the fortress.

10 They hate him who rebukes in the gate and they abhor him who speaks uprightly.

11 Because your treading is upon the poor and you take burdens of wheat from him, therefore you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not dwell in them. And you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine.

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.

13 Therefore, the prudent shall keep silence in that time, for it is an evil time.

14 Seek good and not evil, so that you may live. Then the LORD, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as you have spoken.

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 to the remnant of Joseph."

16 Therefore, Yahweh, the God of hosts, the Lord, says thus: "Wailing shall be in all streets, and they shall say in all the highways, 'Alas! Alas!' And they shall call the farmer to mourning and those who are skillful in lamentation to wailing.

17 And in all vineyards there shall be wailing, for I will pass through you," says the LORD.

18 "Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! To what end is it for you? The day of the LORD is darkness and not light,

19 As if a man fled 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.

20 Shall the day of the LORD not be darkness rather than light, even very dark and no brightness in it?

21 I hate, I despise your feast days and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies.

22 Though you offer me burnt-offerings and your food-offerings, I will not accept them, neither will I regard the peace-offerings of your fat beasts.

23 Take away from me the noise of your songs, for I will not hear the melody of your harps.

24 But let judgment run down as waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.

25 "Have you offered to me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel? 26 But you have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun your images, the star of your god, which you made for yourselves. 27 Therefore, I will cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus," says the LORD, whose name is the God of hosts.

Commentary

Matthew Henry Commentary - Amos, Chapter 5

Notes

John Gill's Chapter Summary:

In this chapter the prophet exhorts Israel to hear his lamentation over them for their impending ruin (verses 1-3); nevertheless to seek the Lord, and all that is good; to forsake their idols, and repent of their sins, in hopes of finding mercy, and living comfortably; or otherwise they must expect the wrath of God for their iniquities, especially their oppression of the poor (verses 4-15); otherwise it would be a time of weeping and wailing, of darkness and distress, however they might harden or flatter themselves, or make a jest of it (verses 16-20); for all their sacrifices and ceremonial worship would signify nothing, so long as they continued their idolatry with them (verses 21-26); and therefore should surely go into captivity (verse 27).

[v.3] - From John Calvin's Commentary: "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 number, 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."

[v.4-6] - From John Calvin's Commentary: "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."

[v.4] - Reference, Deuteronomy 30:1-8; 1st Chronicles 28:9; 2nd Chronicles 15:2; Psalm 22:26, 69:32, 105:3-4; Isaiah 55:3, 6-7; Jeremiah 29:12-13; Lamentations 3:25-26; Ezekiel 18:32; Zephaniah 2:3; Matthew 7:8.

[v.5] - See the note for verse 7.

[v.6a] - "Seek the LORD, and you shall live" - See the references for verse 4.

[v.6b] - "lest he break out like fire, etc." - Reference, Deuteronomy 4:24, 9:3; Hebrews 12:29.

[v.7] - This verse offers an interesting contrast to verse 5. In verse 5, God is condemning the Israelites' tendencies to flee not to God, but to their own places and modes of appeasement and worship. So, in that verse, God is addressing the first tablet of the Ten Commandments, the conduct of our worship of God. Now in this verse, God is condemning the Israelites' conduct toward their neighbor (the second tablet of the Ten Commandments) in that they twisted judgment and gave no care for righteousness. We can see in this the beginning of a Gospel message. If we keep the whole law and yet offend in one point, we are guilty of breaking the whole law (James 2:10). If we lie, even the smallest lie, we have transgressed the law. If we steal anything, regardless of its value, we have broken the law. If we use God's name in an irreverent manner, we are guilty. If we even look upon another person with lust, we are guilty of sin. That's only four of the Ten Commandments. "Now we know that whatever things the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. Scripture has enclosed all under sin, so that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Therefore, the law was our school-master to bring us to Christ, so that we might be justified by faith." (Romans 3:19, 23; Galatians 3:22, 24).

John Calvin's Prayer for Verses 1-7:

Grant, Almighty God, that as you see 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 your word we may at the same time learn to open our eyes to your wholesome warnings by which you call us to yourself: and since we cannot do this without your Spirit being our guide and leader, grant that he may enlighten our eyes, to the end that, being truly and from the heart turned to you, we may know that you are propitious and ready to hear all who unfeignedly seek you, and that, being reconciled to you in Christ, we may also know that you are to us a propitious Father, and that you will bestow on us all kinds of blessings, until you at length gather us to your celestial kingdom, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

[v.8a] - "Seek him who makes the seven stars and Orion" - This passage may be referring to the changing of the seasons. It mentions the seven stars, also known as Pleiades, which are present in the spring time. Then there is mention of Orion, which appears in the fall and winter. English translations almost always use the Greek names for these stars or constellations. The Hebrew names are Kiymah (kee-maw') and Kciyl (kes-eel') respectively.

[v.8b] - Reference, Job 38:31.

[v.11] - Reference, Isaiah 33:1.

[v.12] - "they take a bribe" - This may also be read as, "they take the ransom." This shows the cruelty of the judges, for they hunted for crimes for the sake of gain, that is, they were only interested in receiving the ransom payment. The ransom payment was a bribe to the judges, which they gladly took.

[v.13] - From John Calvin's Commentary: "The prudent dared not to speak on account of the prevailing tyranny... 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... 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."

John Calvin's Prayer for Verses 8-13:

Grant, Almighty God, that as we cannot see with our eyes your infinite and incomprehensible glory, which is hid from us, we may learn at least by your works, what your great power is, so as to be humbled under your mighty hand, and never trifle with you as hypocrites are known to do; but to bring a heart really sincere, and also pure hands, that our whole life may testify that a true fear of your name prevails in our hearts: and grant, that while we devote ourselves wholly to your 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.

[v.19] - From Matthew Henry's Commentary: "It is as if a man fled from a lion and a bear met him, a beast of prey more cruel and ravenous than a lion, or as if a man, to escape all dangers abroad, went into the house for security, and leaned his hand on the wall to rest himself, and there a serpent bit him. Note, Those who are not reformed by the judgments of God will be pursued by them; and, if they escape one, another stands ready to seize them; fear and the pit and snare surround them (Isaiah 24:17-18)."

[v.20] - From Matthew Henry's Commentary: "Note, The day of the Lord will be a dark, dismal, gloomy day to all impenitent sinners; the day of judgment will be so; and sometimes the day of their present trouble. And, when God makes a day dark, all the world cannot make it light."

John Calvin's Prayer for Verses 14-20:

Grant, Almighty God, that seeing we are so sleepy, and even 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 your scourgings, may truly return to you, and that, having wholly changed our disposition and renounced all wickedness, we may sincerely, and from the heart, submit ourselves to you, and so look forward to the coming of your Son, that we may cheerfully and joyfully wait for him, by ever striving after such a renovation of life as may strip us of our flesh and all corruptions, until, being at length renewed after your image, we become partakers of that glory, which has been obtained for us by the blood of the same, your only-begotten Son. Amen.

[v.25] - Quoted in Acts 7:42.

[v.26-27] - Quoted in Acts 7:43.

[v.26] - From John Calvin's Commentary: "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 סוך, suk, which means a tabernacle; for he translated it σκηνην as if it was said, 'You 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."

[v.27] - "Damascus" - From John Calvin's Commentary: "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." This also explains why Stephen, in Acts 7:46, mentions Babylon, which at the time of Amos' prophesies was under Assyrian control.

John Calvin's Prayer for Verses 21-27:

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

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