For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2002 James Melough

9:1.  “And I saw the Lord standing upon the altar:, and he said, Smite the lintel of the door, that the posts may shake: and cut them in the head, all of them; and I will slay the last of them with the sword: he that fleeth of them shall not flee away, and he that escapeth of them shall not be delivered.”

Appropriate to His being the Lord Who was about to execute judgment, the word Lord as used here is Adonai Master, rather than Jehovah, the name associated with redemption and covenant blessing.

The location of the altar isn’t mentioned, but it was probably at Samaria or Bethel or Dan, and was representative of all the idolatrous altars with which the land abounded.  The Lord’s standing upon it (some translations read “beside it”) may be indicative of His power over all such altars, and of His determination to destroy them and all those who used them.

The lintel here is literally the capital which ornamented the top of a pillar, the smashing of the capital being the equivalent of shattering the whole pillar.  With the supporting pillars destroyed the roof would collapse upon the heads of those in the temple, thus “cutting them on the head,” that is, killing them.  “... all of them” declares the completeness of the slaughter, emphasized in the phrase, “I will slay the last of them with the sword.”  No matter where a man might flee, or hope to hide himself, there would be no escaping the wrath of God.  To the last man they would die.

All of this was undoubtedly what Amos saw in a vision, rather than an actual occurrence, for it is impossible to believe that the people, without resistance, would have permitted the prophet to destroy them by bringing their temple down upon their heads.  The mention of the sword confirms that what he was being shown was the coming total destruction of the people at the hand of God using the Assyrians as His instrument.

9:2.  “Though they dig into hell, thence shall mine hand take them; though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down:”

9:3.  “And though they hide themselves in the top of Carmel, I will search and take them out thence; and though they be hid from my sight in the bottom of the sea, thence will I command the serpent, and he shall bite them:”

Some understand Carmel and the bottom of the sea to represent the earthly extremes of height and depth; and heaven and hell, the universal or cosmic limits.

In virtually the same language, but in a very different context, David describes the impossibility of separating one’s self from the presence of God.  He worships for the fact that there is no place where he could ever be beyond God’s watchful protecting care, “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?  If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.  If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.  If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me: even the night shall be light about me.  Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee,” Ps 139:7-12.

The reference to their being bitten by the serpent may be a figurative way of saying that they would be delivered into the hand of Satan, as were Hymenaeus and Alexander, see 1 Tim 1:20, for other Scriptures make it clear that the serpent is a type of Satan, e.g., Job 41:1; Ps 71:13-14; 104:26; Isa 27:1; Re 12:9; 20:2.

Who can begin to imagine what a terrible thing it is for a man to so sin as to take himself out from under God’s watchful care, and make himself instead subject to the destructive power of Satan without hope of God’s delivering intervention!

9:4.  “And though they go into captivity before their enemies, thence will I command the sword, and it shall slay them: and I will set mine eyes upon them for evil, and not for good.”

“Captivity” as used here stresses the thought of exile, and the idea seems to be that even if some of them were to flee into other lands to escape the Assyrian, they would not thereby save themselves: God would still slay them.  This does not, however, exclude the truth that He would also slay them even in Assyrian captivity.

“I will set mine eyes upon them” means simply that God would watch over them, but for evil, not good.  No matter where they might seek to hide, they would be unable to escape Divine judgment.

9:5.  “And the Lord God of hosts (armies) is he that toucheth the land, and it shall melt, and all that dwell therein shall mourn: and it shall rise up wholly like a flood; and shall be drowned, as by the flood of Egypt.”

These and the following examples of God’s omnipotence ought to have warned the people that He had the power to execute the threatened judgment.

Relative to its being said that the land would melt, the word “melt” is used here figuratively to describe the utter helplessness that would grip the people, just as today we use the expression “as weak as water.”  Their former complacent boasting would give place to mourning.

The melting of the land, and its being like a flood are understood by some to refer to volcanic and earthquake activity.

See 8:8 for comments on the Nile’s rising like a flood.

9:6.  “It is he that buildeth his stories (stairs) in (to) the heaven, and hath founded his troop (vault, arch, ceiling) in (over) the earth; he that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The Lord is his name.”

Relative to these stories or stairs to heaven, Tatford writes, “The different heavens were sometimes referred to as the stairs to the heaven of heavens.” 

His “troop” (vault, arch, ceiling), however, can scarcely refer to anything other than the canopy of heaven in which are suspended the clouds, and in which He has placed the heavenly bodies.

His calling for the waters of the sea, and his pouring them out upon the face of the earth, are viewed by some as a reference to His use of the sea water in judgments such as those which enveloped the preAdamic earth, and the world of Noah; but it is perhaps more likely that the reference is to His drawing up the sea water into the atmosphere by evaporation, and then sending it back to water the earth as life-giving rain.

9:7.  “Are ye not as children of the Ethiopians unto me, O children of Israel?  saith the Lord.  Have not I brought up Israel out of the land of Egypt?  and the Philistines from Caphtor, and the Syrians from Kir?”

By their idolatry Israel had made themselves as despised in God’s eyes as the Ethiopians were in theirs.  He reminded them that but for His deliverance they would have been nothing but a company of slaves in Egypt, just as the Philistines would have been unheard of had He not brought them from Caphtor (Crete),  and likewise the Syrians (Aramaens), had He not brought them from Kir in Mesopotamia.  These two nations were inveterate foes of Israel, yet here God is virtually setting the three of them on the same level.

Israel, in her foolish pride, attributed her place of prominence to her own power, just as the Philistines and Syrians credited themselves with having achieved their places of prominence by their own power; but God reminded Israel that she was no better than, and now no more to Him, than these heathen neighbors whom she despised and hated.

9:8.  “Behold, the eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth; saving that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, saith the Lord.”

The sinful kingdom was Israel (the ten northern tribes), and because they had refused to repent, God was about to destroy them.  But, as noted already, the destruction was to be of that present wicked generation, and not the complete annihilation of the nation Israel.  God would preserve for Himself a remnant, which in a day still future, but now imminent, would emerge from the Tribulation judgments, as the new believing Israel in whom would be fulfilled in the Millennium all the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

9:9.  “For, lo I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth.”

This has been fulfilled during the past two thousand years, for since AD 70 Israel has been scattered among the nations, having to move from place to place trying to escape persecution, just like grain shaken from side to side in a sieve, the final and most terrible phase of the Divine sifting to occur in the fast approaching Tribulation. 

The small believing remnant that has always existed in the midst of the apostate mass of the nation, would have to share in the sifting process, but it is of them that God says there “shall not the least grain fall upon the earth.”  Many of them also would die amongst their unbelieving brethren in the course of that sifting, but how different the end result!  Death that has transported their souls to paradise to await the resurrection of life, has swept the souls of their unbelieving fellows into the torment of hell to await the resurrection of damnation.  And so will it be in the coming Tribulation sifting, but out of it will emerge also a living believing remnant, the new Israel that will enter the Millennium to enjoy all the blessings promised the fathers.

9:10.  “All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, which say, The evil shall not overtake nor prevent (meet) us.”

In their arrogant ignorance of the nature of the God with Whom they dealt, they were confident that their outward observance of an empty ritual guaranteed them immunity from judgment, either on earth, or in eternity, this latter being indicated in their confidence that it would not prevent (meet) them.

Christendom, equally arrogant and ignorant, labors under the same delusion.

9:11.  “In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old.”

The word used here for tabernacle means primarily a hut or booth, and indicates how low the once glorious house had fallen.

In the midst of judgment God remembers mercy.  Having pronounced judgment upon the apostate mass, He then speaks words of assurance and comfort to the small believing remnant.  On that same day in which the Lord Jesus Christ, returned to earth in power and glory after the Tribulation, and having banished every unbeliever into hell, will then address the remnant, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world,” Mt 25:34, and they, with the believing remnant of the nations, will pass into the enjoyment of the millennial kingdom.  During that glorious age all the promises recorded in this verse will be fulfilled.  Israel will be head of all the nations, and a literal descendant of David will sit upon the throne, ruling not only over Israel, but over all the nations, their kings being subordinate to him.  The splendor of Solomon’s reign was but a faint foreshadowing of the glory that will be Israel’s in that coming day.

Relative to the king who will rule in the Millennium, it should be understood that he will not be the Lord Jesus Christ, for Scripture makes it clear that that king will be a man of the Davidic line who will offer worship, see Eze 45:17-22; 46:2-12, something Christ does not do: He is worshiped.  Furthermore, that king will also beget literal children, see Eze 46:16,18, something Christ does not do.  The Lord’s reign over the millennial earth will be theocratic as in the days of David and Solomon, that is it will be exercised  by a regent, a man of the Davidic line, whose throne will be in the earthly Jerusalem, while Christ will exercise dominion over the millennial earth from the heavenly Jerusalem.

9:12.  “That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the Lord that doeth this.”

This continues God’s assurance to the believing remnant begun in the preceding verse, for “the remnant of Edom” and the remnant of all the heathen (Gentile nations), identifies this remnant as being the believers from amongst the nations, who will pass out of the Tribulation into the Millennium with the believing remnant of Israel.  Their being “called by my name” confirms that they are believers; and Israel’s “possessing” them confirms that she will have dominion over them during the Millennium.

9:13.  “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt (flow with wine).” 

This describes the fertility and abundance of the millennial earth.  The harvests will be so great that it will take till plowing time to gather them in.  And likewise with the grape harvests: with the vines flourishing everywhere, the yield will be phenomenal.  Inasmuch as wine is a biblical symbol of joy and gladness, the special mention of the grape harvest, may be to indicate that peace and joy will prevail world wide during the Millennium.

9:14.  “And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them.”

This is the assurance that God will yet gather Israel back into the land out of the countries where she has been scattered under the dominion of the Gentiles for the past two thousand years.  The rebuilding of her ruined cities, the planting of vineyards and drinking wine, the making of gardens and eating their produce, are all the pleasant occupations of peace and joy and prosperity, all of them enhancing the picture of millennial blessing.

9:15.  “And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God.”

As they will plant in peace in the land given them by God, so will He plant them in peace in that same land, with the assurance that they will never again be carried out of it.

While most of this little book has been taken up with the sad catalog of Israel’s sins, and of the judgments she must suffer because of them, these few closing verses shed forth the light of the dawning of a glorious new day, a morning without clouds, when the long night of Israel’s weeping will give place to the joy which comes “in the morning.”

An even more glorious morning awaits the believers of this present evil age.  How dark and long the night has been!  How many and bitter the tears that have been shed!  But God’s promise remains the same, and is about to be fulfilled, “... weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning,” Ps 30:5.  All the signs in the world today point to the fact that the night is about to give place to the glorious light of the morning spoken of by David, “And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds,” 2 Sa 23:4.

The Lord’s promise to His own is, “I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also,” Jn 14:2-3.  Relative to that coming Paul assures us that it will be with the speed of light, “... in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,” 1 Cor 15:25 - and it could be today!  The rapture and eternal blessing of the Church will precede the millennial blessing of Israel.



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough