Amos 6:13

Ye which rejoice in a thing of nought, which say, Have we not taken to us horns by our own strength?

Ye which rejoice in a thing of nought,.... In their wealth and riches, which are things that are not, because of the uncertainty of them; and, in comparison of true riches, have no solidity and substance in them, Proverbs 23:5; or in any of the things of this world, the lusts of it, the honours of it, human wisdom or strength; all are things of nought, of no worth, give no satisfaction, and are of no continuance, and not to be gloried in, Jeremiah 9:23; or in their idols, for an idol is nothing in the world, 1 Corinthians 8:4; and yet they rejoiced in them, Acts 7:41; or in their own works of righteousness, as men of a pharisaical temper do, as these people were; these indeed are something, when done in obedience to the will of God, and according to that, and from right principles, and in the exercise of faith and love, and with a view to the glory of God, and as they are evidences of true grace, and profitable to men, and tend to glorify God, and serve the interest of religion; but they are things of nought, and not to be rejoiced and gloried in, in the business of justification before God, and in the affair of salvation: the same may be said of a mere outward profession of religion depended on, and all external rites and ceremonies, or submission to outward ordinances, whether legal or evangelical. The phrase may be rendered, "in that which is no word" {i}; is not the word of God, nor according to it; indeed everything short of Christ and his righteousness, and salvation by him, are things of nought, and not to be rejoiced in, Philippians 3:3;

which say, Have we not taken to us horns by our own strength? by which we have pushed our enemies, got victory over them, and obtained power, dominion, and authority; all which horns are an emblem of. So Sanchoniatho {k} says, Astarte put upon her own head a bull's head, as an ensign of royalty, or a mark of sovereignty; by which, as Bishop Cumberland {l} thinks, is plainly meant the bull's horns, since it is certain that a horn, in the eastern languages, is an emblem or expression noting royal power, as in 1 Samuel 2:10; and in other places; see Daniel 7:24; thus the kings of Egypt wore horns, as Diodorus relates; and perhaps for the same reason the Egyptians adorned Isis with horns {m}. And all this they ascribed not to God, but to themselves. The Targum interprets "horns" by riches; but it rather signifies victory {n}, and power and government, which they took to themselves, and imputed to their own strength, valour, and courage: very probably here is an allusion to their ensigns, banners, shields, or helmets, on which horns might be figured or engraven, being the arms of Ephraim, the son of Joseph, the chief of the ten tribes, who are here spoken of Ephraim is often put for the ten tribes, or the kingdom of Israel; and Joseph, whose son he was, "his glory was like the firstling of a bullock, and his horns" are said to be like "the horns of unicorns: with them", it is promised, "he shall push the people together, to the ends of the earth, and they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh", Deuteronomy 33:17; and it may be, as the lion seems to be the ensign of the tribe of Judah, to which he is by Jacob compared; so the ox or the unicorn might be the ensign of the tribe of Ephraim: and so the ancient Jews, as Aben Ezra on Numbers 2:2; observes, say, that the form of a man was on the standard of Reuben; and the form of a lion on the standard of Judah; and the form of an ox on the standard of Ephraim, &c. and others {o} of them say that the standard of Joseph was dyed very black, and was figured for the two princes of Ephraim and Manasseh; upon the standard of Ephraim was figured an ox, because "the firstling of a bullock"; and on the standard of Manasseh was figured an unicorn, because "his horns are like the horns of unicorns". Now the Israelites, or those of the ten tribes, at the head of which Ephraim was, set up their banners, not in the name of the Lord, but in their own strength; and attributed their conquests and dominions to their own conduct and courage, the horns of their own strength, and not to God {p}. And this also is the language of such persons, who ascribe regeneration and conversion, faith, repentance, the cleansing of a man's heart, and the reformation of his life, yea, his whole salvation, to the power and strength of his free will, when man has no strength at all to effect any of these things; these are all vain boasts, and very disagreeable and offensive to the Lord; and for such like things persons stand here reproved by him, and threatened with woes; for woe must be here supplied from Amos 6:1.

{i} rbd all "in non verbo", Montanus.
{k} Apud Euseb. Evangel. Prepar. l. 2. p. 38.
{l} Sanchoniatho's History, p. 35.
{m} Vid. Pignorii Mensa Isiaca, p. 30.
{n} "Vieimus, et domitum pedibus calcamus amorem, Venerunt capiti cornua sera meo". Ovid. Amor. l. 3. Eleg. 10.
{o} Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 2. fol. 178. 3.
{p} Vid. Lydium de Re Militari, l. 4. c. 4. p. 164.