In the former part of the chapter we had these secure Israelites loading themselves with pleasures, as if they could never be made merry enough; here we have God loading them with punishments, as if they could never be made miserable enough. And observe,
I. How strongly this burden is bound on, not to be shaken off by their presumption and security; for it is bound by the Lord the God of hosts, by his mighty, his almighty, hand, which none can resist; it is bound with an oath, which puts the sentence past revocation: The Lord God has sworn, and he will not repent, and, since he could swear by no greater, he has sworn by himself. How dreadful, how miserable, is the case of those whose ruin, whose eternal ruin, God himself has sworn, who can execute his purpose and cannot alter it!
II. How heavily this burden lies! Let us see the particulars. 1. God will abhor and abandon them, and that implies misery enough, all misery: I abhor the excellency of Jacob, all that which they are proud of, and value themselves upon, and for which they call and count themselves the chief of nations. Their visible church-membership, and the privileges of that, their temple, altar, and priesthood, these were, more than any thing, the excellencies of Jacob; but, when these were profaned and polluted by sin, God abhorred them; he hated and despised them, Amos 5:21. Note, God abhors that form of godliness which hypocrites keep up, while they abhor the power of it. And if he abhors their temple, for the iniquity of that, no marvel that he hates their palaces, for the injustices and oppression he finds there. Note, that creature which we take such a complacency and put such a confidence in as to make it a rival with God is thereby made abominable to him. He hates the palaces of sinners, for the sake of wickedness of those that dwell therein. Prov. 3:33; The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked. And, if God abhor them, immediately it follows, He will deliver up the city with all that is therein, deliver it up into the hands of the enemy, that will lay it waste, and make a prey of all its wealth. Note, Those that are abhorred and abandoned of God are undone to all intents and purposes. 2. There shall be a great and general mortality among them (Amos 6:9): If there remain ten men in one house, that have escaped the sword of the enemy, yet they shall be met with another way; they shall all die by famine or pestilence. In the most sickly times, if there be ten in a house, one may hope that at least the one-half of them will escape, according to the proportion of two in a bed, one taken and the other left; but here not one of ten shall live to bury the rest. Another instance of the greatness of the mortality is (Amos 6:10) that the nearest relations of the dead shall be forced with their own hands to wind up their bodies, and bury them, for want of other hands to be employed in it; that is all that the next of kin, to whom the right of redemption belongs, can do for them, and with great reluctance will they do that. It intimates that the young people shall be cut off soonest; for the uncle that survives is, ordinarily, the senior relation. “When the uncle comes with the sexton (or him that burns), to bring out the bones out of the house, he shall say to him that he sees next about the house, ‘Isa. there any yet with thee? Are there any left alive?’ And he shall say, ‘No, this is the last; now the whole family is cut off by death, and neither root nor branch remains.’” But that which makes the judgment the more grievous is that their hearts seem to be hardened under it. “When he that is found by the sides of the house begin to enter into discourse with those that are carrying off the dead, they shall say, ‘Hold thy tongue; do not stand preaching to us about the hand of Providence in this calamity, for we may not make mention of the name of the Lord; God is so angry with us that there is no speaking to him; he is so extreme to mark what we do amiss that we dare not so much as make mention of his name.” ‘ Thus the foolishness of men perverts their way, and brings them into distress, and then their heart frets against the Lord. Even then they will not take notice of his hand, nor suffer those about them to do it. Perhaps it was forbidden by some of the idolatrous kings to make mention of the name of Jehovah, as by the law of Moses it was forbidden to make mention of the names of the heathen-gods: “We may not do it without incurring the penalty.” Note, Those hearts are wretchedly hardened indeed that will not be brought to make mention of God’s name, and to worship him, when the hand of God has gone out against them, and when, as here, sickness and death are in their families. Thus those heap up wrath who cry not when God binds them. 3. Their houses shall be destroyed, Amos 6:11. God will smite the great house with breaches, and the little house with clefts; they shall both be cracked so as to lose their beauty and strength, and to be hastening towards a fall. The princes’ palaces are not above the rebuke of divine justice, nor the poor men’s cottages beneath it; neither shall escape. When sin has marked them for ruin God will find ways to bring it about. It is by order from him that breaches are made.
III. How justly they are thus burdened. If we understand the matter aright, we shall say, The Lord is righteous. 1. The methods used for their reformation had been all fruitless and ineffectual (Amos 6:12): Shall horses run upon the rock, to hurl or harrow the ground there? Or will one plough there with oxen? No, for there will be no profit to countervail the pains. God has sent them his prophets, to break up their fallow-ground; but they found them as hard and inflexible as the rock, rough and rugged, and they could do no good with them, nor work upon them, and therefore they shall not attempt it any more. They will not be reclaimed, and therefore shall not be reproved, but quite abandoned. Note, Those who will not be cultivated as fields and vineyards shall be rejected as barren rocks and deserts, Heb. 6:7, 8. 2. They had abused their power to the wrong and oppression of many, whose injured cause the sovereign Judge would not only right, but revenge: You have turned judgment into gall, which is nauseous, and the fruit of righteousness into hemlock, which is noxious; it would make one sick to see how those that were entrusted with the administration of public justice bore down equity with that power which they out to have defended and supported it, and so turned its own artillery against itself. Note, When our services of God are soured with sin his providences will justly be embittered to us. 3. They had set the judgments of God at defiance, and, confiding in their own strength, thought themselves a match for Omnipotence, Amos 6:13. They rejoiced in a thing of nought, pleased themselves with a fancy that no evil should befal them, though they had no ground at all for that confidence, nothing to trust to that would bear any weight. They said, “Have we not taken to us horns; have we not arrived to great dignity and dominion, have we not pushed down our enemies and pushed on our victories, and this by our own strength, our own skill and courage, our own wealth and military force? Who then need we be afraid of? Who then need we make court to? Not God himself.” Note, Prosperity and success commonly make men secure and haughty; and those that have done much think they can do any thing, any thing without God, nay, any thing against him. But those who trust in their own strength rejoice in a thing of nought, and so they will find. Probably they did not say this with their lips, totidem verbis—in so many words, but it was the language of their hearts and of their actions, both which God understands.
IV. How easily and effectually this burden shall be brought upon them, Amos 6:14. He that brings it upon them is the Lord the God of hosts, who both may do and can do what he pleases, who has all creatures at his command, and who, when he has work to do, will not be at a loss for instruments to do it with; though they are the house of Israel, yet he will raise up against them a nation which they feared not, but had many a time hoped in, even the Assyrians, and this nation shall afflict them, bring them into straits, and put them to pain, from the entering in of Hamath, in the north, to the river of the wilderness, the river of Egypt, Sihor or Nile, in the south. The whole nation has shared in the iniquity, and therefore must expect to share in the calamity. Note, When men are in any way instruments of affliction to us we must see God raising them up against us, for they are in his hand—the rod, the sword, in his hand. The Lord has bidden Shimei curse David.