Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

pretation the erroneousness of which might have been suggested by the past tenses in verses 10, 11 (the earth quaked, the sun darkened, 8c.), and which may have originated as well in a forgetfulness of the nature of the Hebrew tense, as in eagerness to create prediction. In iii. 3, (ü. 20), we have Tòv årò Boppā, and qui ab Aquilone est, better renderings than the Anglican V., “Northern army," and both suiting the locusts too clearly, for Maurer's explanation of the Hebrew as meaning the defiler, or for Ewald's alteration of text to be necessary.

In iï. 12 (ii. 30) the agreement of Tous doulouç uov and servos meos, either suggests a suspicion that the pronoun dropped early out of the Hebrew, or implies that the Prophet's deeper meaning of even bondsmen sharing with priests and kings God's holy Spirit of freedom was lost to the Alexandrine and Patristic translators.

Other variations are given in the margin, so far as they seemed of interest to English readers.

INTRODUCTION TO AMOS.

Amos has fixed for us his own time and place. In the reign of Uzziah king of Judah, and of Jeroboam, Jehu's great-grandson, the most prosperous of all the Ephraimite kings, he tended his herd or flock, and pricked the wild figs to aid their ripening, at Tekoa, a pastoral village six miles (says Jerome who knew it well) “ to the south of holy Bethlehem," therefore twelve from Jerusalem. Here, amidst wild pastures, bordered by the wilder desert, though burdened (as his name Amos may also import) by servile tasks, yet gazing on the stars, and listening to the lion's roar, at which the dwellers in lonely huts trembled, the fear of God found him. Such instances of the Breath of God blowing where it listeth are not wanting elsewhere. George Fox says, Journal, 1646 : “As I was walking in a “ field on a First-day morning, the Lord opened to me that

being bred at Oxford or Cambridge was not enough to “ fit men to be ministers of Christ; and I wondered at it, “ because it was the common belief of people. But I saw it

clearly as the Lord opened it to me, and was satisfied, and admired the goodness of the Lord, who had opened this

thing unto me that morning.” ..."Did not the apostle

say to believers, that they needed no man to teach them, “ but as the anointing teacheth them.” At another “ timeit was opened unto me, that God who made the world, “ did not dwell in temples made with hands.” So in the time when the Levitical Priests were extending their power at Jerusalem, and thrusting out king Uzziah from the ministry which Solomon had exercised, and while a ritual of rival pomp, with contrast of symbols rather than of

[ocr errors]

object, was flourishing under royal patronago at Bethel, this shepherd, untrained in Prophet's schools, felt the strong impulse in the form of indignant truth, which rests not until it finds a voice. Rumours must have reached him of the worship at Bethel, little better than that which king Jeroboam's great-grandsire had extinguished in blood; one whose symbols seemed alien, and which enforced neither temperance on the rich, nor tenderness to the poor. So he rose, not like St. Paul suddenly turned back from his way; more like Savonarola, or Luther in his earlier stages, outraged by the sins of men in a system yet honoured ; and like the primitive Quakers rebuking the Stuart Prelates and Kings, he left his few sheep in the wilderness, to preach to the Ten tribes, in the power of a truth which seemed fresh from God. In comparing such a mission with similar impulses elsewhere which may seem less signally divine, it is a true instinct which leads us to recognise in all a kindred principle, and that one which not fanaticism but just reasoning pronounces a calling, vocation, mission ; though the greater need of balancing circumstances and of making allowance for our incompleteness on this side or on that, which belongs to the broader development of man's reflective powers, suggests modesty in the degree of directness with which we can say, " the Lord hath sent us.”

On entering the land of the Ten Tribes, the Shepherd Preacher finds little signs of a people, such as a highlygifted leader had brought out of Egypt, and such as had known the dedicated poverty of Nazarites, and the fervid voice of Prophets. Wealth coarsely luxurious and grasping, women greedy, and men oppressive, with all the iniquity which sticketh to the hands in buying and selling, arrest the open eyes which had gazed in the Desert on the seven stars and Orion, and night's death-shade passing into dawn. The occasional stintings and shortcomings of God's

VOL. I.

D

gifts in Nature, which should have reminded men of their dependency on a higher power, had been disregarded. Let us buy cheap and sell dear, and give us to drink,” were the people's cries, as the Priests of Bethel chanted on. “ Shall not the Lord avenge himself on such a nation as this,” is the first cry of foreboding which such things suggest to a devout mind. Even slight circumstances, or trivial visions, become significant of a retribution due, therefore impending. Amos sees locusts or grasshoppers ; they must signify bareness of the land. He sees fire; it seems sent to devour its portion. His thoughts turn inward, and he sees, “non oculis, sed mentis intuitu," Jehovah measuring the walls destined to fall. So the basket of summer fruit becomes a summary sign of ripening to a supreme end. If the thought of famine crosses him, it suggests a deeper hunger; the helplessness of men, not knowing where to turn for direction : though God had read aloud by his Prophets the secret lesson of imminent events—the mystery of design in what seemed but result.

Such visions or narratives of circumstances which the Preacher's foreboding spirit renders significant, formed, it

appears to me, the staple of the preaching of Amos among the Ten tribes. Hence they are naturally connected in ch. v..vi. (A. V., ch. vii. viii. ix.) with the account of their impression upon those who heard them. Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, whose words betray a cool estimate of the extent to which “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets,” addresses the dangerous preacher in words redolent of that policy of Caiaphas which survives to our own time, though not in its harshest form. He does not wish to hurt Amos : let him eat his bread with the Dissenters of Judah, and he may preach to his heart's content; but let him not introduce dangerous truths in the Establishment at Bethel; the people may be disturbed. The fierce denunciation with which the Preacher answers this warning, does not prove that he did not yield to it. Notwithstanding worthless legends of his martyrdom, he seems to have returned to Tekoa, where Jerome at least saw his tomb; and since he twice mentions in his book the earthquake, which according to the title (ch. i. 1.) happened two years later than his preaching, he must have survived his visit to Samaria by at least two years. He seems to have spent the interval, (with possibly instruction from some trained Prophet, as is thought in the analogous case of St. Paul,) in elaborating into a solemn poem, the denunciations which he had uttered in Samaria, and the thoughts which grouped themselves around the greatest event in his life. For it would be the greatest mistake to conceive of him as singing about Bethel the rhythmical strophes of the first chapter, or indeed any of the poetry down to ch. v. 11, the first six chapters of the Authorised Version. Rather he seems to have written with pains, not disdaining to borrow largely from Joel, (as in schools of poetry, where the method is traditional, every one borrows from his foregoers,) and as he meditated on his denunciations of the Ten tribes, other nations seemed to deserve similar warning. The impartiality of the Divine justice would include the bitter kinsmen of Edom, (too like the Jews to be loved by them,) and all oppressors; though it might fall heaviest on the men of Israel and Judah, whose guilt was aggravated by light. Thus musing, the news of a great earthquake reached him, and sounded as a begining of the end, before which former troubles would fade into preludes. Then with a sublime enumeration of the titles of Almighty God, iii. 19-21, (A. V. iv. 13, v. 2,) he proclaims a last word as a dirge over the falling, almost fallen Israel. In the same spirit he proclaims to foreign nations in Egypt and Ashdod (for which an ingenious but unwarranted conjecture would read Assur,) that Jehovah

« AnteriorContinuar »