The Israelites are here again convicted and condemned, and particular notice given of the crimes they are convicted of and the punishment they are condemned to.
1. Notice is given of it to their neighbours. The prophet is ordered to publish it in the palaces of Ashdod, one of the chief cities of the Philistines; nay, the summons must go further, even to the palaces in the land of Egypt. “The great men of both those nations, that dwell in the palaces, that are inquisitive concerning the affairs of the neighboring nations, and are conversant with the public intelligence, let them assemble themselves upon the mountains of Samaria,” Amos 3:9. There, upon a throne high and lifted up, the judgment is set. Samaria is the criminal that is to be tried; let them be present at the trial, for it shall be (as other trials are) public, in the face of the country; let them make an appointment to meet there from all parts, to judge between God and his vineyard. God appeals to all impartial righteous men, Ezek. 23:45. They will all subscribe to the equity of his proceedings when they see how the case stands. Note, God’s controversies with sinners do not fear a scrutiny; even Philistines and Egyptians will be made to see, and say, that the ways of the Lord are equal, but our ways are unequal. They are likewise summoned to attend, not only that they may justify God and be witness for him that he deals fairly, but that they may themselves take warning; for, if judgment begin at the house of God, as they see it does, what shall be the end of those that are strangers to him? 1 Pet. 4:17. If this be done in a green tree, what shall be done in a dry? Or this intimates that the sin of Israel had been so notorious that the neighboring nations could come in witnesses against them, and therefore it was fit that their punishment should be so. “If it could have been concealed, we would have said, Tell it not in Gath; publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon;” but why should their friends consult their reputation, when they themselves do not consult it? If they have grown impudent in sin, let them bear the shame: “Publish it in Ashdod, in Egypt.”
1. Let them see how black the charge is, and how well proved. Let them observe the behaviour of the inhabitants of Samaria; let them look off from the adjacent hills, and they may see how rude and boisterous they are, and hear how loud they cry of their sin is, as was that of Sodom. (1.) Look into their streets and you will see nothing but riot and disorder, great tumults in the midst thereof; reason and justice are upon all occasions run down by the noise and fury of an outrageous mob, the dominion of which is the sin and shame of any people, and is likely to be their ruin. (2.) Look into their prisons, and you will see them filled with injured innocents: The oppressed are in the midst thereof, thrown down and crushed by their oppressors, overpowered and overwhelmed, and they had no comforter, Eccl. 4:1. (3.) Look into their courts of justice, and you will see that those who preside in those courts know not to do right, because they have always been accustomed to do wrong; they act as if they had no notion at all of the thing called justice, are in no care to do justice themselves nor to see that others do justice. (4.) Look into their treasures and stores, and you will see them replenished with violence and robbery, with that which was unjustly got and is still unjustly kept. Thus they have heaped treasures together for the last days, but it will prove a treasure of wrath against the day of wrath. It may well be said, Those know not to do right who think to enrich themselves by doing wrong.
2. Let them see how heavy the doom is, and how well executed, Amos 3:11, 12.
(1.) Their country shall be invaded and ruined; and observe how the punishment answers to the sin. [1.] Great tumults are in the midst of the land, and therefore an adversary shall be even round about the land; the Assyrian forces shall surround it and break in upon it on every side. Note, When sin is harboured and indulged in the midst of a people they can expect no other than that adversaries should be round about them, so that, go which way they will, they go into the mouth of danger, Luke 19:43. [2.] They strengthened themselves in their wickedness, but the enemy shall bring down their strength from them, that strength which they abused in oppressing the poor, and doing violence to all about them. Note, That power which is made an instrument of unrighteousness will justly be brought down and broken. [3.] They stored up robbery in their palaces, and therefore their palaces shall be spoiled; for what is got and kept wrongfully will not be kept long. Even palaces will be no protection to fraud and oppression; but the greatest of men, if they have spoiled others, shall themselves be spoiled, for the Lord is the avenger of all such.
(2.) Their countrymen shall not escape, Amos 3:12. They shall be in the hands of the enemy, as a lamb in the mouth of a lion, all devoured and eaten up, and they shall be utterly unable to make an resistance; and if any do make their escape, so as neither to fall by the sword or go into captivity, yet they shall be very few, and those of the meanest and least considerable, like two legs, or shanks, of a lamb, or, it may be, a piece of an ear, which the lion drops, or the shepherd takes from him, when he has eaten the whole body; so, perhaps, here and there one may escape from Samaria and from Damascus, when the king of Assyria shall fall upon them both, but none to make any account of; and those that do escape shall do so with the utmost difficult and hazard, by hiding themselves in the corner of a bed or under the bed’s feet, which intimates that their spirits shall sneak shamefully in the time of danger. They shall not hide themselves in dens and caves, but in the corner of a bed, or the piece of a bed, such as poor people must be content with. They shall very narrowly escape, as it is foretold concerning the last destruction of Jerusalem that there shall be two in a bed together, one taken and the other left. Note, When God’s judgments come forth against a people with commission it will be in vain to think of escaping them. Some make their dwelling in the corner of a bed, and in a couch, to denote their present security and sensuality; they are at ease, as in a bed, or on a couch, but, when God comes to contend with them, he shall make them uneasy, shall take them away out of the bed of their sloth and slumber. Those that stretch themselves lazily upon their couches when God’s judgments are abroad shall go captive with the first that go captive.
II. Notice is given of it to themselves, Amos 3:13. Let this be testified, and heard, in the house of Jacob, among all the seed of Israel, for it is spoken by the Lord God, the God of hosts, who has authority to pass this sentence and ability to execute it; let them know from him that the day is at hand when God will visit the transgressions of Israel upon him, when he will enquire into them and reckon for them: there will come a day of visitation, a day of punishment, and in that day all those things they are proud of, and put confidence in, shall fail them, and so they shall smart for the sins they have been guilty of about them. 1. Woe to their altars, for God will visit them. He will enquire into the sins they have been guilty of at their altars, and bring into the account all their superstition and idolatry, all their expenses on their false gods, and all their expectations from them; and he will lay the altars themselves under the marks of his displeasure, for the horns of the altar shall be cut off, and fall to the ground, and with them the altar itself demolished and broken to pieces. We find the altar at Bethel prophesied against (1 Kgs. 13:2), and immediately rent (Amos 3:3), and that prophecy fulfilled with Josiah burnt men’s bones upon it, 2 Kgs. 23:15, 16. This seconds that prophecy, and seems to point at the same event. Note, If men will not destroy idolatrous altars, God will, and those with them that had them in veneration. Some make the horns of the altar to signify all those things which they flee to for refuge, and trust in, and which they make their sanctuary: they shall all be cut off, so that they shall have nothing to take hold of. 2. Woe to their houses, for God will visit them too. He will enquire into the sins they have been guilty of in their houses, the robbery that have stored up in their houses, and the luxury in which they lived: and I will smite the winter-house with the summer-house, Amos 3:15. Their nobility, and gentry, and rich merchants, had their winter-houses in the city and their summer-houses in the country, so nice were they in guarding against the inconveniences of the winter when the country was thought too cold, and of the summer when the city was thought too hot, though the climate of that good land was so temperate, like that of ours, that neither the cold nor heat was ever in extremity. They indulged a foolish affectation of change and variety; but God will, either by war or by the earthquake, smite both the winter-house and the summer-house; neither shall serve to shelter them from his judgments. The houses of ivory (so called because the ceiling, or wainscot, or some of the ornaments of them, were edged or inlaid with ivory) shall perish, shall be burnt or pulled down; and the great houses shall have an end; the most splendid and spacious houses, the houses of their great men, shall no longer be, or at least be no longer theirs. Note, The pomp or pleasantness of men’s houses will be so far from fortifying them against God’s judgments that it will make them the more grievous and vexatious, as their extravagance about them will be put to the score of their sins and follies.