One would have expected, 1. That what we met with in the former part of the chapter would awaken the people to repentance, when they saw that they were reprieved in order that they might have space to repent and that they could not obtain a pardon unless the did repent. 2. That it would endear the prophet Amos to them, who had not only shown his good-will to them in praying against the judgments that invaded them, but had prevailed to turn away those judgments, which, if they had had any sense of gratitude, would have gained him an interest in their affections. But it fell out quite contrary; they continue impenitent, and the next news we hear of Amos is that he is persecuted. Note, As it is the praise of great saints that they pray for those that are enemies to them, so it is the shame of many great sinners that they are enemies to those who pray for them, Ps. 35:13; 109:4. We have here,
I. The malicious information brought to the king against the prophet Amos, Amos 7:10, 11. The informer was Amaziah the priest of Bethel, the chief of the priests that ministered to the golden calf there, the president of Bethel (so some read it), that had the principal hand in civil affairs there. He complained against Amos, not only because he prophesied without license from him, but because he prophesied against his altars, which would soon be deserted and demolished if Amos’s preaching could but gain credit. Thus the shrine-makers at Ephesus hated Paul, because his preaching tended to spoil their trade. Note, Great pretenders to sanctity are commonly the worst enemies to those who are really sanctified. Priests have been the most bitter persecutors. Amaziah brings an information to Jeroboam against Amos. Observe, 1. The crime he is charged with is no less than treason: “Amos has conspired against thee, to depose and murder thee; he aims at succeeding thee, and therefore is taking the most effectual way to weaken thee. He sows the seeds of sedition in the hearts of the good subjects of the king, and makes them disaffected to him and his government, that he may draw them by degrees from their allegiance; upon this account the land is not able to bear his words.” It is slyly insinuated to the king that the country was exasperated against him, and it is given in as their sense that his preaching was intolerable, and such as nobody could be reconciled to, such as the times would by no means bear, that is, the men of the times would not. Both the impudence of his supposed treason, and the bad influence it would have upon the country, are intimated in that part of the charge, that he conspired against the king in the midst of the house of Israel. Note, It is no new thing for the accusers of the brethren to misrepresent them as enemies to the king and kingdom, as traitors to their prince and troublers of the land, when really they are the best friends to both. And it is common for designing men to assert that as the sense of the country which is far from being so. And yet here, I doubt, it was too true, that the people could not bear plain dealing any more than the priests. 2. The words laid in the indictment for the support of this charge (Amos 7:11): Amos says (and they have witnesses ready to prove it) Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall be led away captive; and hence they infer that he is an enemy to his king and country, and not to be tolerated. See the malice of Amaziah; he does not tell the king how Amos had interceded for Israel, and by his intercession had turned away first one judgment and then another, and did not let fall his intercession till he saw the decree had gone forth; he does not tell him that these threatenings were conditional, and that he had often assured them that if they would repent and reform the ruin should be prevented. Nay, it was not true that he said, Jeroboam shall die by the sword, nor did he so die (2 Kgs. 14:28), but that God would rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword, Amos 7:9. God’s prophets and ministers have often had occasion to make David’s complaint (Ps. 56:5), Every day they wrest my words. But shall it be made the watchman’s crime, when he sees the sword coming, to give warning to the people, that they may get themselves secured? or the physician’s crime to tell his patient of the danger of his disease, that he may use means for the cure of it? What enemies are foolish men to themselves, to their own peace, to their best friends! It does not appear that Jeroboam took any notice of this information; perhaps he reverenced a prophet, and stood more in awe of the divine authority than Amaziah his priest did.
II. The method he used to persuade Amos to withdraw and quit the country (Amos 7:12, 13); when he could not gain his point with the king to have Amos imprisoned, banished, or put to death, or at least to have him frightened into silence or flight, he tried what he could do by fair means to get rid of him; he insinuated himself into his acquaintance, and with all the arts of wheedling endeavored to persuade him to go and prophesy in the land of Judah, and not at Bethel. He owns him to be a seer, and does not pretend to enjoin him silence, but suggests to him,
1. That Bethel was not a proper place for him to exercise his ministry in, for it was the king’s chapel, or sanctuary, where he had his idols and their altars and priests; and it was the king’s court, or the house of the kingdom, where the royal family resided and where were set the thrones of judgment; and therefore prophesy not any more here. And why not? (1.) Because Amos is too plain and blunt a preacher for the court and the king’s chapel. Those that wear silk and fine clothing, and speak silken soft words, are fit for king’s palaces. (2.) Because the worship that is in the king’s chapel will be a continual vexation and trouble to Amos; let him therefore get far enough from it, and what the eye sees not the heart grieves not for. (3.) Because it was not fit that the king and his house should be affronted in their own court and chapel by the reproofs and threatenings which Amos was continually teazing them with in the name of the Lord; as if it were the prerogative of the prince, and the privilege of the peers, when they are running headlong upon a precipice, not to be told of their danger. (4.) Because he could not expect any countenance or encouragement there, but, on the contrary, to be bantered and ridiculed by some and to be threatened and brow-beaten by others; however, he could not think to make any converts there, or to persuade any from that idolatry which was supported by the authority and example of the king. To preach his doctrine there was but (as we say) to run his head against a post; and therefore prophesy no more there. But,
2. He persuades him that the land of Judah was the fittest place for him to set up in: Flee thee away thither with all speed, and there eat bread, and prophesy there. There thou wilt be safe; there thou wilt be welcome; the king’s court and chapel there are on thy side; the prophets there will second thee; the priests and princes there will take notice of thee, and allow thee an honourable maintenance. See here, (1.) How willing wicked men are to get clear of their faithful reprovers, and how ready to say to the seers, See not, or See not for us; the two witnesses were a torment to those 26b6 that dwelt on the earth (Rev. 11:10), and it were indeed a pity that men should be tormented before the time, but that it is in order to the preventing of eternal torment. (2.) How apt worldly men are to measure others by themselves. Amaziah, as a priest, aimed at nothing but the profits of his place, and he thought Amos, as a prophet, had the same views, and therefore advised him to prophesy were he might eat bread, where he might be sure to have as much as he chose; whereas Amos was to prophesy where God appointed him, and where there was most need of him, not where he would get most money. Note, Those that make gain their godliness, and are governed by the hopes of wealth and preferment themselves, are ready to think these the most powerful inducements with others also.
III. The reply which Amos made to these suggestions of Amaziah’s. He did not consult with flesh and blood, nor was it his care to enrich himself, but to make full proof of his ministry, and to be found faithful in the discharge of it, not to sleep in a whole skin, but to keep a good conscience; and therefore he resolved to abide by his post, and, in answer to Amaziah,
1. He justified himself in his constant adherence to his work and to his place (Amos 7:14, 15); and that which he was sure would not only bear him out, but bind him to it, was that he had a divine warrant and commission for it: “I was no prophet, nor prophet’s son, neither born nor bred to the office, not originally designed for a prophet, as Samuel and Jeremiah, not educated in the schools of the prophets, as many others were; but I was a herdsman, a keeper of cattle, and a gatherer of sycamore-fruit.” Our sycamores bear no fruit, but, it seems, theirs did, which Amos gathered either for his cattle or for himself and his family, or to sell. He was a plain country-man, bred up and employed in country work and used to country fare. He followed the flocks as well as the herds, and thence God took him, and bade him go and prophesy to his people Israel, deliver to them such messages as he should from time to time receive from the Lord. God made him a prophet, and a prophet to them, appointed him his work and appointed him his post. Therefore he ought not to be silenced, for, (1.) He could produce a divine commission for what he did. He did not run before he was sent, but pleads, as Paul, that he was called to be an apostle; and men will find it is at their peril if they contradict and oppose any that come in God’s name, if they say to his seers, See not, or silence those whom he has bidden to speak; such fight against God. An affront done to an ambassador is an affront to the prince that sends him. Those that have a warrant from God ought not to fear the face of man. (2.) The mean character he wore before he received that commission strengthened his warrant, so far was it from weakening it. [1.] He had no thoughts at all of ever being a prophet, and therefore his prophesying could not be imputed to a raised expectation or a heated imagination, but purely to a divine impulse. [2.] He was not educated nor instructed in the art or mystery of prophesying, and therefore he must have his abilities for it immediately from God, which is an undeniable proof that he had his mission from him. The apostles, being originally unlearned and ignorant men, evidenced that they owed their knowledge to their having been with Jesus, Acts 4:13. When the treasure is put into such earthen vessels, it is thereby made to appear that the excellency of the power is of God, and not of man, 2 Cor. 4:7. [3.] He had an honest calling, by which he could comfortably maintain himself and his family; and therefore did not need to prophesy for bread, as Amaziah suggested (Amos 7:12), did not take it up as a trade to live by, but as a trust to honour God and do good with. [4.] He had all his days been accustomed to a plain homely way of living among poor husbandmen, and never affected either gaieties or dainties, and therefore would not have thrust himself so near the king’s court and chapel if the business God had called him to had not called him thither. [5.] Having been so meanly bred, he could not have the courage to speak to kings and great men, especially to speak such bold and provoking things to them, if he had not been animated by a greater spirit than his own. If God, that sent him, had not strengthened him, he could not thus have set his face as a flint, Isa. 50:7. Note, God often chooses the weak and foolish things of the world to confound the wise and mighty; and a herdman of Tekoa puts to shame a priest of Bethel, when he receives from God authority and ability to act for him.
2. He condemns Amaziah for the opposition he gave them, and denounces the judgments of God against him, not from any private resentment or revenge, but in the name of the Lord and by authority from him, Amos 7:16, 17. Amaziah would not suffer Amos to preach at all, and therefore he is particularly ordered to preach against him: Now therefore hear thou the word of the Lord, hear it and tremble. Those that cannot bear general woes may expect woes of their own. The sin he is charged with is forbidding Amos to prophesy; we do not find that he beat him, or put him in the stocks, only he enjoined him silence: Prophesy not against Israel, and drop not thy word against the house of Isaac; he must not only thunder against them, but he must not so much as drop a word against them; he cannot bear, no, not the most gentle distilling of that rain, that small rain. Let him therefore hear his doom.
(1.) For the opposition he gave to Amos God will bring ruin upon himself and his family. This was the sin that filled the measure of his iniquity. [1.] He shall have no comfort in any of his relations, but be afflicted in those that were nearest to him: His wife shall be a harlot; either she shall be forcibly abused by the soldiers, as the Levite’s concubine by the men of Gibeah (they ravish the women of Zion, Lam. 5:11), or she shall herself wickedly play the harlot, which, though her sin, her great sin, would be his affliction, his great affliction and reproach, and a just punishment upon him for promoting spiritual whoredom. Sometimes the sins of our relations are to be looked upon as judgments of God upon us. His children, though they keep honest, yet shall not keep alive: His sons and his daughters shall fall by the sword of war, and he himself shall live to see it. He has trained them up in iniquity, and therefore God will cut them off in it. [2.] He shall be stripped of all his estate; it shall fall into the hand of the enemy, and be divided by line, by lot, among the soldiers. What is ill begotten will not be long kept. [3.] He shall himself perish in a strange country, not in the land of Israel, which had been holiness to the Lord, but in a polluted land, in a heathen country, the fittest place for such a heathen to end his days in, that hated and silenced God’s prophets and contributed so much to the polluting of his own land with idolatry.
(2.) Notwithstanding the opposition he gave to Amos, God will bring ruin upon the land and nation. He was accused for saying, Israel shall be led away captive (Amos 7:11), but he stands to it, and repeats it; for the unbelief of man shall not make the word of God of no effect. The burden of the word of the Lord may be striven with, but it cannot be shaken off. Let Amaziah rage, and fret, and say what he will to the contrary, Israel shall surely go into captivity forth of his land. Note, it is to no purpose to contend with the judgments of God; for when God judges he will overcome. Stopping the mouths of God’s ministers will not stop the progress of God’s word, for it shall not return void.