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Amos was a missionary from Judah to Israel, giving them a final warning to repent before divine judgment was to destroy the nation. They refused, and two years later the nation was struck by a massive earthquake that destroyed their defenses and allowed the Assyrians to conquer them easily.
Category - Bible Commentaries
Amos finally gets to the heart of his message—which was to Israel itself. This was why he was sent from Judah to Israel. Amos’ indictment against the House of Israel came after first indicting Israel’s neighbors, including Judah. Hence, the audience could not accuse Amos of being partial or of singling out Israel. The message was that Israel was just as bad as her neighbors, and that God would not overlook her sin and rebellion.
Amos 2:6, 7 says,
6 Thus says the Lord, “For three transgressions of Israel and for four, I will not revoke its punishment, because they sell the righteous for money [silver] and the needy for a pair of sandals. 7 These who pant after the very dust of the earth on the head of the helpless also turn aside the way of the humble…”
Amos’ indictment upon Israel was directed toward its Department of Justice, which had abandoned God’s law. Convicted sinners (thieves) were supposed to pay restitution, and if they were unable to do so, then they were to be “sold” to pay the debt to their victims (Exodus 22:3). However, many of the judges in Israel were being bribed, and as a result, righteous people were being sold into slavery. Exodus 23:6-8 says,
6 You shall not pervert the justice due to your needy brother in his dispute. 7 Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent or the righteous, for I will not acquit the guilty. 8 And you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of the just.
God takes injustice very seriously, both then and now. So this is the first thing that God condemned in Israel.
Amos also charged Israel with selling “the needy for a pair of sandals.” I doubt that this was the price of a slave. More likely, since it is coupled with selling the righteous for silver, Amos was referring to the unjust judges again.
I believe that Amos was condemning the judges in Israel for excessive punishment. A poor man who has nothing might steal a pair of sandals, and for this a merciless judge might condemn him to be sold as a slave. Hence, Israel’s sin was not only a lack of justice but also a lack of mercy. Instead of selling the poor man on account of a pair of sandals, someone ought to have given him some sandals—or at least paid the restitution for his theft. Micah 6:8 says,
8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness [chesed, “mercy, loving-kindness”], and to walk humbly with your God?
The law, then, commands us to know the mind of God, not only in matters of justice but also mercy and humility.
Amos 2:7 continues,
7 … and a man and his father resort to the same girl in order to profane My holy name.
This was a common practice in Canaanite temples, which employed priests and priestesses to “purify” the people through sexual acts. In such cases, both father and son might have sexual relations with the same priestess.
Amos does not give us any details, but it is possible that the wealthier Israelites had purchased slave women to be sexual slaves for both fathers and their sons. The law in Lev. 18:17 says that a man was not to “uncover the nakedness of a woman and of her daughter,” because “they are blood relatives.” This principle applied equally to a man and his son having relations with the same woman, a sin which Paul addressed in 1 Cor. 5:1.
It appears that such things were being practiced in Israel, because the law had been put away. But God saw it and was displeased, for it profaned His holy name.
Amos 2:8 says,
8 And on garments taken as pledges, they stretch out beside every altar…
Pledges were collateral on loans. On short-term loans, it was often customary for someone to give his outer garment as a pledge on a loan. But the law regulates this practice in Exodus 22:26, 27,
26 If you ever take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you are to return it to him before the sun sets, 27 for that is his only covering; it is his cloak for his body. What else shall he sleep in? And it shall come about that when he cries out to Me, I will hear him, for I am gracious.
In Amos’ day, creditors were ignoring this law, for they were using them at night to “stretch out beside every altar.” Perhaps the creditors were priests who slept beside the altars. If Amos was speaking figuratively, he was saying that creditors kept the garments overnight with the approval of the religious system that the altars represented.
The last part of Amos 2:8 says,
8 … And in the house of their God they drink the wine of those who have been fined.
The wine in question seems to be wine that was “fined” (or exacted) from debtors. In other words, it has to do with foreclosure on debts. While some see an element of utter ruthlessness of mortgage lenders in this, it seems more probable to me that the focus is upon drinking “in the house of their God” (or god).
Was this Bethel, “the house of God”? It is not likely that Amos was talking about the temple in Jerusalem, since his condemnation was directed at Israel, not at Judah. Yet it must have been directed at the actions of priests in some sort of worship center.
The law says in Lev. 10:8-11,
8 The Lord then spoke to Aaron, saying, 9 “Do not drink wine or strong drink, neither you nor your sons with you, when you come into the tent of meeting, so that you may not die—it is a perpetual statute throughout your generations— 10 and so as to make a distinction between the holy and the profane, and between the unclean and the clean, 11 and so as to teach the sons of Israel all the statutes which the Lord has spoken to them through Moses.”
The law of God forbids priests to drink on the job, so that they may think clearly and teach the law soberly. Strong drink tends to blur the distinctions “between the holy and the profane and between the unclean and the clean.”
God then appealed to history, showing how He had taken the land from the Amorites and had given it to Israel on account of the sin of the Amorites. Amos 2:9, 10 says,
9 Yet it was I who destroyed the Amorite before them, though his height was like the height of cedars and he was strong as the oaks; I even destroyed his fruit above and his root below. 10 And it was I who brought you up from the land of Egypt, and I led you in the wilderness forty years, that you might take possession of the land of the Amorite.
When God promised to give the land to Abraham’s descendants, He told him that this would not occur during his life time. First, they would have to serve others for 400 years. He then said in Gen. 15:16,
16 Then in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.
In other words, Israel was required to wait until the iniquity of the Amorites had reached the level where divine judgment was required according to the law.
The timing of this judgment was actually set by Noah’s curse upon Canaan and his descendants in Gen. 9:25-27. This put the Canaanites as a whole under Cursed Time (2 x 414 years), which is actually a grace period giving them time to repent. As I showed in Secrets of Time, their time of grace ended in the year that Joshua led Israel into Canaan 828 years after the curse was given. Hence, Joshua brought judgment upon the Canaanites for not repenting in the allotted time of grace.
It is interesting that Amos’ rehearsal of Israel’s history mentions the Amorites, which refers to God’s prophesy to Abraham in Gen. 15:16. The term Amorite was a general term that also included the Canaanites—not that they were technically the same people, but that they were all ruled by Nephilim (giants) in the same area.
Amos describes the Amorites as giants, saying, “his height was like the height of cedars and he was strong as the oaks” (Amos 2:9). Yet the Hebrew word translated Amorites is Emoriy, which is defined as “a sayer” in the sense of publicity or prominence. We are told that it can also refer to a mountaineer, or one who came from a mountain. Most likely, this is a reference to the Nephilim, or giants, who came from Mount Hermon saying or claiming that they were the sons of God.
We know that God delivered the Amorites and various giants into the hands of Moses in the battles on the east side of the Jordan River even before Joshua led Israel across the river into the land of Canaan itself (Deut. 4:46-48).
Amos reminds Israel how God had empowered them to overcome the giants and to take their land. This implies that God had the right to be worshiped, since the Israelites ought to follow the God who had established them in the land at the beginning.
Second, it was the God of Israel who had redeemed them from the house of bondage in Egypt. In the prologue to the Ten Commandments, God claimed the exclusive right to be worshiped, saying in Exodus 20:2, 3,
2 I am the Lord [Yahweh] your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 You shall have no other gods before Me.
Unfortunately, the people thought that they had been given freedom to worship whatever god they chose, not realizing that God had purchased them as His own slaves. Slaves may have some level of equality among other slaves, but they do not have the right to serve another master. The laws of redemption are clear on this point (Lev. 25:53).
Amos 2:11, 12 continues,
11 “Then I raised up some of your sons to be prophets and some of your young men to be Nazirites. Is this not so, O sons of Israel?” declares the Lord. 12 “But you made the Nazirites drink wine, and you commanded the prophets saying, ‘You shall not prophesy!’”
First it should be understood that true prophets and true Nazirites are not self-called. God calls them and raises them up as His spokesmen to minister to the people. In the case of Nazirites (or Nazarites), the law speaks of them in Num. 6:1-21.
Nazirites were not to drink wine (Num. 6:3), and they were not to shave (Num. 6:5). The word nazir also means “unpruned” (Lev. 25:5, 11, KJV) or “untrimmed” (NASB), showing that unshaven Nazirites were like unpruned fruit trees or vines, which were not to be pruned or trimmed during Sabbath years and Jubilees. In other words, they were signs of the Jubilee, that is, of entering into God’s rest.
But the authorities in Israel apparently had been forcing Nazirites to drink wine and had been forbidding God’s prophets to prophesy when their prophecies ran contrary to national policy and the nation’s desire to sin. This shows that Israel had not truly entered into God’s rest, even though they had been given the land of Canaan. God’s rest is about refraining from one’s own works and words and about doing the works of God and speaking His words (Isaiah 58:13; Heb. 4:10).
It seems that Amos himself was told to stop prophesying judgment upon Israel, because Amos 2:13 says,
13 Behold, I am weighted down beneath you as a wagon is weighted down when filled with sheaves.
The word translated “weighted down” is uwq, which means to totter under a crushing weight. What was it that made Amos totter? It was the oppressive weight of the command to cease prophesying, for he said, “I am weighted down beneath you.” It seems that Amos was expelled from the country and wrote his account after he had returned to his home in Judah.
Amos 2:14 continues,
14 “Flight will perish from the swift, and the stalwart will not strengthen his power, nor the mighty man save his life.”
Those who think that they are swift runners will not be able to flee when divine judgment comes. The powerful will find that they are too weak. The mighty man cannot save his own life in that day.
Amos 2:15 continues on the same vein, saying,
15 He who grasps the bow will not stand his ground, the swift of foot will not escape, nor will he who rides the horse save his life.
Horses were symbols of salvation and deliverance, since they often made the difference in a battle. But in God’s Kingdom, the kings were not to depend upon horses for national defense. They were to rely upon God’s blessing for their obedience to Him. So Deut. 17:16 instructs the kings of Israel in this way:
16 Moreover, he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the Lord has said to you, “You shall never again return that way.”
Israel ignored this injunction in later years. When the nation put away God’s law and adopted the ways of men, it became clear that God would no longer defend them. So they felt the need to build up their national defense to defend themselves from the nations whom God had raised up to bring judgment upon Israel. So Isaiah 31:1, 3 says,
1 Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, and rely on horses, and trust in chariots because they are many, and in horsemen because they are strong… 3 Now the Egyptians are men and not God, and their horses are flesh and not spirit; so the Lord will stretch out His hand… and all of them will come to an end together.
The people did not understand that to rely upon one’s military strength was to “return to Egypt.” In other words, Israel would find themselves in bondage to Egypt once again.
The principle can be applied to America today, which has followed Israel’s example of ruling by military might. We have fallen into the trap of which President Dwight Eisenhower warned us in his farewell address on Jan. 17, 1961.
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence—economic, political, even spiritual—is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.
Eisenhower understood that depending upon “the military-industrial complex” could easily “endanger our liberties or democratic processes.” It is hard to know if he had read this in the Bible or if he was speaking purely through experience and observation. Either way, however, he spoke the truth, but America did not heed his words.
America’s dependence upon military might rather than upon God’s favor changed dramatically in 1933, when the nation began to be secularized by Socialism in the Roosevelt administration. By rejecting the truth that all nations are accountable to God and are subject to His law, America began to depend upon its own military strength and its own cavalry (“tanks”).
In so doing, we began to return to Egypt as we came into bondage to the horse breeders—that is, the men who owned the big corporations who manufacture armaments and the banks which are allied with them.
The words of Amos are timeless, for the laws of God did not end at the cross. When we violate those laws, we pay the price, even as Israel did thousands of years ago. And when the time of divine judgment arrives, the power of fleshly horses (and iron tanks) will not suffice, nor will the mighty man be able to save himself.
Fortunately for us, we have served our time in captivity, and the time of our deliverance is drawing near. The deliverance of the people will mean the overthrow of the ungodly rulers who have put America (and the world) into captivity to Mystery Babylon.
Amos concludes in Amos 2:16,
16 “Even the bravest among the warriors will flee naked in that day,” declares the Lord.
This occurred in ancient times when Israel was defeated and captured by the Assyrian army. Israel was no match for Assyria, because God had raised up Assyria to judge Israel. In the same way, as John tells us in Rev. 18:8-10, the rulers of Mystery Babylon, the mother of harlots, will be helpless in the day of God’s judgment.
8 For this reason in one day her plagues will come, pestilence and mourning and famine, and she will be burned up with fire; for the Lord God who judges her is strong. 9 And the kings of the earth who committed acts of immorality and lived sensuously with her, will weep and lament over her when they see the smoke of her burning, 10 standing at a distance because of the fear of her torment, saying, “Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city! For in one hour your judgment has come.”
If ancient Israel had taken heed to the words of Amos, they might have avoided the destruction of their nation and their deportation to Assyria. Likewise, we today might have avoided the captivity to Mystery Babylon in the past century if we had heeded Amos’ words. But our rulers were intent upon dethroning Jesus Christ as our King, for they desired to usurp His ownership of America and of the whole earth, which He owns by right of creation.