4. Thus hath the Lord God shewed unto me: and, behold, the Lord God called to contend by fire, and it devoured the great deep, and did eat up a part.
4. Sic ostendit mihi Dominus Jehova: et ecce vocans ad disceptandum in igne Dominus Jehova, et consumpsit (aut, voravit) abyssum magnam (et consumpta fuit possessio) (alii chlq vertunt partem agri; sed malo accipere pro tota possessione.
5. Then said I, O Lord God, cease, I beseech thee: by whom shall Jacob arise? for he is small.
5. Et dixi, Adonai Jehova, cessa, obsecro; quis (hoc est, quomodo) consurget Jacob? (vel, quis attollet, ut prius dictum est;) quia parvus est.
6. The Lord repented for this: This also shall not be, saith the Lord God.
6. Poenituit Jehova super hoc; Etiam hoc non erit, dicit Dominus Jehova.
The Prophet shows that God had not once only spared the people, but that when he was again prepared for vengeance, he still willingly deferred it, that, if possible, the people might willingly recover themselves: but as all were unhealable, this forbearance of God produced no fruit. Now as to the words of the Prophet, we see that a heavier punishment is designated by the similitude of fire, than by what he said before when he spoke of locusts. We stated that by locusts is to be understood ordinarily a moderate punishment, one not so dreadful at first sight. For though the want and famine introduced by locusts, when they consume all kinds of fruit, are most grievous evils; yet fire sometimes strikes people with much greater dread. Hence the Prophet shows by mentioning fire, that God had become very indignant, having seen that the people had hardened themselves and could not be reformed by common and usual remedies. The Lord's usual mode of proceeding, as he declares everywhere in Scriptures is this: At first he tries to find whether men are capable of being healed, and applies not the most grievous punishment, but such as may be endured; but when he perceives in sinners hardness and obstinacy, he doubles and trebles the punishment, yea, as he says by Moses, he increases his judgments sevenfold (Deuteronomy 28:25.) Such then was the manner which Amos now records; for God at first created the locusts, and then he kindled a fire, which consumed the great deep, and devoured their possession.
The point, denoting a participial form in the word here used, shows that they are mistaken who render yvtsr, iutsar, creation, of which we have spoken before; for the point here corresponds with that in yvtsr, iutsar, . In both places the Lord shows himself to be the author of punishment, which is wont to be ascribed to chance; for men imagine that evils proceed from something else rather than from God. Hence it was necessary for this to be distinctly expressed, as the Prophet does also, when he says that locusts had been created by God, and that fire had been kindled by him.
God then called to contend by fire. It was not without a design that the Prophet uses the verb rvv, rub, which yet expositors have not duly weighed. For he indirectly condemns the hardness of the people, inasmuch as the Lord had already not only chastised the vices of the people, but had also contended with men depraved and obstinate: as when no justice can be obtained, a litigation becomes necessary; so the Prophet says here, that God was coming prepared with fire, to contend with the stubbornness of the people. The great deep, he says, was consumed by this fire. Hence what I have already said becomes more evident, -- that a more dreadful punishment is here described than in the first vision. The locusts devoured the grass only but the fire penetrates into the utmost deep; it consumes and destroys not only the surface of the earth, but burns up the very roots, yea, it descends to the center and consumes the whole earth. They who render chlq, chelak, a part, do not sufficiently attend to the design of the Prophet, for he concludes that the surface of the earth had been laid waste, because the very gulfs had not escaped the burning. And when the fire reaches to the very bowels of the earth, how could their possession stand, which was also exposed to the heat of the sun? We see how the earth is burnt up by heat, when the sun is scorching at Midsummer. We now perceive the Prophet's design.
He adds, that God was again pacified. We must ever bear in mind the object he had in view; for ungodly men thought the Prophets to be liars, whenever God did not immediately execute the vengeance he had denounced: but Amos here reminds them, that when God defers punishment, he does not in vain threaten, but waits for men to repent; and that if they still go on in abusing his patience, they will have at last to feel how dreadful is the vengeance which awaits all those who thus pervert the goodness of God, who hear not God inviting them so kindly to himself. This is the meaning. It follows --