Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Lamentation. Such canticles were usual, Isaias xiv. — Israel. It no longer formed a separate kingdom. (Calmet) — When the people fear no evil, God laments for them. (Worthington)
Ver. 3. City, before (Calmet) or after the captivity. It required a long time to fill the cities as they had been. (Haydock) — When the Assyrians invaded the country, it was greatly reduced. (Calmet)
Ver. 5. Bethel,…Galgal,…Bersabee. The places where they worshipped their idols. (Challoner) — They had all been honoured by the patriarchs. Bersabee had belonged to Juda under Achab, 3 Kings xix. 3. But it was originally in the tribe of Simeon, and Jeroboam II recovered all that had been lost, 4 Kings xiv. 25. (Calmet) — Unprofitable. Hebrew leaven, “for vanity,” (Haydock) Bethaven.
Ver. 6. Joseph. His two grandchildren gave name to the principal tribes of the kingdom. — Bethel. Septuagint, “Israel,” which seems preferable. (Calmet) — Yet Bethel may stand, as it denotes the apostate Israelites.
Ver. 7. You. Septuagint, “the Lord, [God] who does judgment on high, and has placed justice on the earth; (8) who maketh and transformeth all things, and turneth,” &c. (Haydock) — Hebrew agrees with the Vulgate. (Calmet)
Ver. 8. Arcturus and Orion. Arcturus is a bright star in the north, Orion a beautiful constellation in the south. (Challoner) — Shepherds in Arabia and Spain are well acquainted with the stars. (Calmet) — We have examined the meaning of cima and cesil, Job ix. 9., and xxxviii. 31. St. Jerome’s master asserts that the latter means “efflugence.” Cima is rendered the Pleiades by Aquila and Theodotion; “the seven stars,” by Protestants. (Haydock) — When such allusions to the heathen mythology occur, they give no sanction to it, but serve to explain what is meant. (St. Jerome) — Morning, affording comfort, chap. iv. 13. — Earth, by floods (Calmet) or rain. (St. Jerome)
Ver. 9. With a smile. That is, with all ease, and without making any effort. (Challoner) — Aquila has “grinning,” to shew displeasure. (St. Jerome) — Hebrew, “he strengthens the oppressor against the strong,” so that those whom he pleases to chastise cannot escape.
Ver. 10. They, the wicked, could not endure Amos, (chap. vii. 12.) nor those who rebuked them.
Ver. 12. Grievous. Hebrew also, “numerous.”
Ver. 13. Time. It is to no purpose speaking to the deaf, (Ecclesiasticus xxxii. 9.) or throwing pearls before swine, Matthew vii. 6. Amos was silent for a while, till God opened his mouth again, chap. iii. 8., and vii. 12.
Ver. 14. Said. Probably Amaias took occasion, from the flourishing state of the kingdom, to assert that the Lord approved of their conduct. (Calmet)
Ver. 15. May be. God will not be wanting on his side. But this implies that man may find a difficulty in seeking good, and neglect to do it, though he may if he please, with God’s assistance. (Worthington) — Remnant. Posterity. (Calmet)
Ver. 16. Lament. Such hired mourners often seemed more grieved than those who were really affected. (Horace, art.) All were invited to join in the common sorrow, Jeremias ix. 17., and xlviii. 31.
Ver. 18. The day. Some imprudently laughed at the prophets, Isaias v. 19., and Jeremias xvii. 15. Others wished for the coming of the Lord, not reflecting that he would punish their guilt. (Calmet) — Thus many, through impatience, desire to die. We must rather repent, and leave our lives at God’s disposal. (St. Jerome)
Ver. 19. Serpent. All his attempts would thus proved abortive. The Israelites were not ruined by Phul, or by Theglathphalassar. But the serpent, (Haydock) Salmanasar, came and took them in their own houses, 4 Kings xvii. 7. (Calmet)
Ver. 21. Festivities. Some were still observed, chap. iv. 4.
Ver. 22. Vows. Hebrew, “peace-offerings of your meries;” a sort of oxen, 2 Kings vi. 13., and 3 Kings i. 9. Septuagint, “the salvation of your appearance,” or what you offer for your welfare.
Ver. 23. Harp. Praise ill becomes the sinner, Ecclesiasticus xv. 9., and Psalm xlix. 17.
Ver. 24. Mighty. Hebrew, “Ethan.” Let your virtue appear, or the greatest miseries will shortly overwhelm you. (Calmet)
Ver. 25. Did you offer, &c. Except the sacrifices that were offered at the first, in the dedication of the tabernacle, the Israelites offered no sacrifices in the desert. (Challoner) — They ceased after the beginning of the second year. (St. Augustine, q. 47 in Exodus, Leviticus vii., &c.) (Worthington) — God did not require sacrifices when the people came out of Egypt, Jeremias vii. 22., and Deuteronomy xii. 8. They were not performed so regularly in the desert, (Calmet) and the people still bore a secret affection for idols, (ver. 26.) which rendered all their victims useless. (Haydock)
Ver. 26. A tabernacle, &c. All this alludes to the idolatry which they committed, when they were drawn away by the daughters of Moab to the worship of their gods, Numbers xxv. (Challoner) — They imitated the superstitions of Egypt, and bore the image of Osiris, adorned with a star and crescent, on a sort of base, under a canopy. Hebrew, “You carried the tents of your king and the base of your statues, the star of your gods, which you have made for yourselves.” Septuagint by changing (Calmet) ciun into Rephan, or raiphan, (Haydock) have caused great confusion among commentators. If any change were requisite, (Calmet) cima (Haydock) would be preferable, ver. 8., and Job ix. 9. Yet the Hebrew seems to be correct, and chiun denotes a pedestal rather than an idol. Some read Kevan, the Saturn of the Arabs, &c., and think that Rephan has been mistaken for it. The only difficulty is the authority of St. Stephen, who follows the Septuagint, Acts vii. 43. Yet he probably spoke in Syriac, and might pronounce Chevan; though St. Luke might adopt the Septuagint in a matter of so little consequence. (Calmet, Diss.) — This decision may not probably give satisfaction to those who reflect that both these authors were under the immediate influence of the Holy Ghost, and that if an error had crept into the copy of the Septuagint, he would have corrected it. Truth is always of sufficient consequence. See Kennicott, Diss. ii. p. 344. (Haydock) — Chiun and Rephan are “expressive of the same” god or idol, representing the machine of the heavens. The people of Peru worshipped Choun. (Parkhurst, p. 137.) — Remvan may be Remmon, (4 Kings v. 18.) or Saturn. (Grotius) — In a Coptic alphabet of the planets it is thus explained: (De Dieu. Collier. Dict. Sept. and Acts) “You have taken the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your Rempham, figures,” &c. Protestants marginal note, “the Siccuth, your king, and Chiun, your images, the star,” &c. (Haydock)
Ver. 27. Damascus, or Babylon, (Acts vii.) into Mesopotamia, &c. The sense is the same. (Calmet) — When the apostles quote passages, “they do not consider the words but the sense.” (St. Jerome) — One Greek copy, however, has Damascus in the Acts. (Haydock)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
A lamentation for Israel: an exhortation to return to God.
1 Hear ye this word, which I take up concerning you for a lamentation. The house of Israel is fallen, and it shall rise no more.
2 The virgin of Israel is cast down upon her land, there is none to raise her up.
3 For thus saith the Lord God: The city, out of which came forth a thousand, there shall be left in it a hundred: and out of which there came a hundred, there shall be left in it ten, in the house of Israel.
4 For thus saith the Lord to the house of Israel: Seek ye me, and you shall live.
5 But seek not Bethel, and go not into Galgal, neither shall you pass over to Bersabee: for Galgal shall go into captivity, and Bethel shall be unprofitable.
6 Seek ye the Lord, and live: lest the house of Joseph be burnt with fire, and it shall devour, and there shall be none to quench Bethel.
7 You that turn judgment into wormwood, and forsake justice in the land.
8 Seek him that maketh Arcturus, and Orion, and that turneth darkness into morning, and that changeth day into night: *that calleth the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The Lord is his name.
9 He that with a smile bringeth destruction upon the strong, and waste upon the mighty.
10 They have hated him that rebuked in the gate: and have abhorred him that speaketh perfectly.
11 Therefore, because you robbed the poor, and took the choice prey from him: *you shall build houses with square stone, and shall not dwell in them: you shall plant most delightful vineyards, and shall not drink the wine of them.
12 Because I know your manifold crimes, and your grievous sins: enemies of the just, taking bribes, and oppressing the poor in the gate.
13 Therefore the prudent shall keep silence at that time, for it is an evil time.
14 Seek ye good, and not evil, that you may live: and the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, as you have said.
15 *Hate evil, and love good, and establish judgment in the gate: it may be the Lord, the God of hosts, may have mercy on the remnant of Joseph.
16 Therefore, thus saith the Lord, the God of hosts, the sovereign Lord: In every street there shall be wailing: and in all places that are without, they shall say: Alas, alas! and they shall call the husbandman to mourning, and such as are skilful in lamentation to lament.
17 And in all vineyards there shall be wailing: because I will pass through in the midst of thee, saith the Lord.
18 *Woe to them that 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 should flee from the face of a lion, and a bear should meet him: or enter into the house, and lean with his hand upon the wall, and a serpent should bite him.
20 Shall not the day of the Lord be darkness, and not light: and obscurity, and no brightness in it?
21 *I hate, and have rejected your festivities: and I will not receive the odour of your assemblies.
22 And if you offer me holocausts, and your gifts, I will not receive them: neither will I regard the vows of your fat beasts.
23 Take away from me the tumult of thy songs: and I will not hear the canticles of thy harp.
24 But judgment shall be revealed as water, and justice as a mighty torrent.
25 *Did you offer victims and sacrifices to me in the desert for forty years, O house of Israel?
26 But you carried a tabernacle for your Moloch, and the image of your idols, the star of your god, which you made to yourselves.
27 And I will cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus, saith the Lord, the God of hosts, is his name.
8: Amos ix. 6.
11: Sophonias i. 13.
15: Psalm xcvi. 10.; Romans xii. 9.
18: Jeremias xxx. 7.; Joel ii. 11.; Sophonias i. 15.
21: Isaias i. 11.; Jeremias vi. 20.; Malachias i. 12.
25: Acts vii. 42.