Mar 17 2007
Vs 1 I saw the Lord standing beside the altar; and he said, Smite the capitals, that the thresholds may shake; and break them in pieces on the head of all of them; and I will slay the last of them with the sword: there shall not one of them flee away, and there shall not one of them escape. (Note: unless otherwise stated, all quotes come from the AMERICAN STANDARD VERSION. The text is in the public domain).
I saw. Reminds us of the superscription which spoke of “the words of Amos…which he saw concerning Israel.” the Lord standing beside the altar. This could also be translated “on the altar” which would be more in keeping with the position God is usually said to assume. However, it should be kept in mind that this is a false altar upon which God is never have said to have manifested his presence. Indeed, seeking the Lord as if he were present on such a false altar has already been condemned (5:4-5).
God commands someone to smite the capitals, that the threshold may shake. Who exactly is being command to do this is unclear. Since what follows has God speaking in the first person, it seems likely that he is speaking with himself (see Gen 18:16-21). The capitals are to be broken so as to fall upon the heads of those worshipping in the temple. There may be an allusion here to Samson’s destruction of the temple of Dagon (Judges 16:23-31).
I will slay the last of them…there shall not one of them escape. This may be an allusion to Jehu’s destruction of the temple of Baal (2 Kings 10:18-27.
Vs 2-4 though they dig into Sheol, from there my hand shall take them; and though they climb up to heaven, from there will I bring them down. And though they hide themselves in the top of Carmel, I will search and take them out; and though they be hid from my sight in the bottom of the sea, I will command the serpent to bite them. And though they go into captivity before their enemies, thence I will command the sword, and it shall slay them: And I will set my eyes upon them for evil, and not for good.
No matter how deep they go (Sheol, sea), nor how high (the top of Mt. Carmel, heaven) they will not escape God’s punishments, for he is the Lord of creation as the following verses make clear:
Vs 5-6 For the Lord, God of hosts, is he who touches the land and it melts, and all that dwell thereupon shall mourn; and the land shall rise up like the river, and sink back again, like the river of Egypt; It is he that builds his chambers in the heavens, and has founded his vault upon the earth; he that calls forth the waters of the sea, and pours them out upon the face of the earth; the Lord is his name (My translation based heavily on ASV)
Like 4:13 and 5:8-9 these verses are a doxology The image of the land melting and its rising up and sinking back like the river (i.e. the Nile) indicates an earthquake as in 8:8 (see also 1:1). The word melts in verse 5 could (and probably should) be translated as tremble, shakes, or shudders (see Psalm 46:6; Nahum 1:5).
Vs 7 Are you not like the children of the Ethiopians to me, O children of Israel? says the Lord. Was it not I who brought Israel up out of Egypt, as I brought the Philistines out from Caphtor, and the Syrians from Kir?
Israel is in reality no different from any pagan nation because it has separated itself from the one God and his covenant and laws. Mere possession of the land of promise is nothing, since God gave land even to the pagan Philistines (who are said to have come from Caphtor, probably Crete). Its covenant relationship with God is what set Israel apart (see Exodus 19:5), but this relationship they had severed, thereby making themselves no better than other nations (see Exodus 8:19-20).
Vs 8-10 Behold, the eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom, and I shall destroy it from off the face of the earth; save that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, says the Lord. For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all the nations, like grain is sifted in a sieve, yet the smallest kernel shall not fall upon the earth. All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, who say, evil shall not overtake nor meet us.
Only those lowly and humble enough to repent (symbolised by the smallest kernel) will escape. Those out of touch with their own sinfulness see no need to repent and will therefore be lost.