Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
In this chapter God represents to Amos, by three several visions, the judgments he is about to bring on Israel. The first is a plague of locusts, threatening to cut of the hopes of the harvest by attacking it in the time of the second growth; the first luxuriances of the crop being probably mowed for the king's horses, Amo 7:1-3. The next vision threatens a judgment by fire, which would consume a great part, Amo 7:4-6; and the third a total overthrow of Israel, levelling it as it were by a line, Amo 7:7-9. The rest of the chapter is a denunciation of heavy judgments against Amaziah, priest of Beth-el, who had brought an accusation to the king against the prophet, Amo 7:10-17.
Behold, he formed grasshoppers - גבי gobai is generally understood here to signify locusts. See the notes on Joel 1 (note) and Joel 2 (note).
The shooting up of the latter growth - The early crop of grass had been already mowed and housed. The second crop or rowing, as it is called in some places, was not yet begun. By the king's mowings we may understand the first crop, a portion of which the king probably claimed as being the better hay; but the words may signify simply the prime crop, that which is the best of the whole. Houbigant thinks the shearing of the king's sheep is meant.
By whom shall Jacob arise? - The locusts, the symbols of the many enemies that had impoverished Jerusalem, having devoured much of the produce of the land, were proceeding, till, at the intercession of the prophet, they were removed. Then, seeing in the light of prophecy the nation in every sense brought low, he cries, "By whom shall Jacob arise? for he is small." Calmet justly remarks: "After the death of Jeroboam the second, the kingdom, so flourishing and powerful before, was reduced to such weakness that it was obliged to have recourse to strangers for support. Menahem applied to Pul, king of Assyria, whence arose the final misery of the state.
The Lord repented - Changed his purpose of destroying them by the locusts. See Amo 7:6.
The Lord God called to contend by fire - Permitted war, both civil and foreign, to harass the land, after the death of Jeroboam the second. These wars would have totally destroyed it, had not the prophet interceded.
It devoured the great deep, and did eat up a part - We are here to understand the partially destructive wars which afterwards took place; for the Lord causes all these things to pass before the eyes of Amos in the vision of prophecy; and intimates that, at the intercession of his prophets, total ruin should be prevented.
With a plumbline in his hand - This appears to be intended as an emblem of strict justice, and intimated that God would now visit them according to their iniquities.
I will set a plumbline - I will visit them by justice without any mixture of mercy.
And the high places of Isaac shall be desolate - Their total destruction is at hand. The high place of Isaac was Beer-sheba, where Isaac had built an altar to the Lord, Gen 26:25. This high place, which had been abused to idolatrous uses, was demolished by Josiah, king of Judah, as we read in Kg2 23:8, for he defiled all the high places from Geba to Beersheba.
I will rise against the house of Jeroboam - The Lord had promised to Jehu, the ancestor of Jeroboam, that his family should sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation. Zechariah, the son of Jeroboam, was the fourth in order after Jehu; and on him the threatening in this verse fell; for he was murdered by Shallum after he had reigned six months, and in him the family became extinct. See Kg2 10:30; Kg2 15:8-10.
Amaziah the priest of Beth-el - The idolatrous priest who had been established by the king to maintain the worship of the golden calves which Jeroboam the elder had set up at this place.
Amos hath conspired against thee - This was truly a lying prophet; there is not one word of truth in this message which he sent to Jeroboam. Amos had not conspired against the king - had not said that Jeroboam should die by the sword - and had not said that Israel should be carried away captive, though this last was implied in God's threatening and afterwards delivered by this prophet; see Amo 7:17.
O thou seer - He pretends kindness to the prophet, and counsels him to go into Judea, and prophesy there and be safe, even in the time that he had accused him of high treason against Jeroboam. Hireling priests of this kind have ever been the great enemies of the true prophets of God; and when they could bring no charge of false doctrine or immorality against them, have accused them of conspiring against the government; and because they have preached against sin, have held them up as exciting insurrection among the people.
But prophesy not - at Beth-el - He must not speak against idolatry, because that was the king's religion; and he who speaks against the king's religion must be an enemy to the state. This was the doctrine held in England by popish James 2 and his insidious Jesuit hireling priests, till God in his mercy put this pitiful tyrant down, and with him his false prophets, and the degrading superstition which they endeavored to establish in these lands.
I was no prophet - I am an extraordinary messenger of God. I am not called to the prophetic office but for this occasion. I have no message to Judah, and therefore need not go there. I have a message to Israel alone, and I must faithfully deliver it.
For the account which Amos gives here of himself, see the introduction.
Now therefore hear thou the word of the Lord - While he was speaking in his own vindication, God seems to have inspired him with the awful prediction which he immediately delivers.
Thy wife shall be a harlot - As this was the word of the Lord, so it was fulfilled; but as we have no farther account of this idolatrous priest, so we cannot tell in what circumstances these threatenings were executed.
1. His wife was to be a public prostitute; she was probably such already privately in the temple, as the wife of an idolatrous priest.
2. His sons and daughters were to fall by the sword.
3. Their inheritance was to be taken by strangers.
4. And himself was to die a captive in a heathen land.
Israel shall surety go into captivity - He now declares fully what he had not declared before, though Amaziah had made it a subject of accusation. This particular was probably revealed at this instant, as well as those which concerned Amaziah and his family.