The Old Testament prophets
were adept at luring hostile audiences into listening to their judgment
speeches. In 1 Kings 20:35-43 a prophet tricked Ahab into pronouncing his own
guilt and punishment. And Nathan tricked David into declaring his own guilt by
the artful use of a parable (2 Sam. 12).
Amos 1-2 contains a great
example of this entrapment technique, and recognizing what Amos is doing here
really helps us to understand what is being said and what is the theme of the
Seven speeches pronouncing Judgment.
Five messages describing the reasons for the judgment and just how
bad they were.
Five visions to show how bad the judgment will be.
Promise of restoration in the future.
I also want to spend some
time showing you some of the literary devices that the prophets used. Most of
what they did is lost on the modern reader, but they were skilled writers and
understanding some of these literary devices really opens up the book.
So, with this in mind, let's
study the book of Amos.
Amos was a sheepherder from
the southern kingdom of Judah. Amos 7:15 shows us that he received a direct call
from God to go prophesy to the northern kingdom of Israel. So Amos goes to
Bethel, which was functioning as the capitol of Israel. The king, Jeroboam II,
lived there. Bethel had special significance in Israel's history. In Genesis 28:
we see that this is where Jacob had his dream about the angels descending on the
ladder and his wrestling with God. But now it had become the center for idol
worship in the Northern Kingdom. Jeroboam set up golden calves in Bethel and Dan
for the Israelites to worship, because he didn't want the people worshipping God
in Jerusalem and reuniting the kingdom.
It says this happened in the
days of Uzziah, king of Judah and in the days of Jeroboam. So we know this to be
somewhere between 790-753 BC. Israel was at the height of its power politically,
but was very corrupt spiritually and morally.
We know that Israel was
defeated by the Assyrians in 722 B.C., so this is just before that time and Amos
is warning Israel so they will turn from their wicked ways before it is too
late. And that brings us to the theme of the book.
One thing we need to notice
is the phrase, “The Lord roars from Zion.” God has been Israel's shepherd.
The Israelites are familiar with the 23rd Psalm, etc. Like a shepherd, God is
supposed to take care of them. But Amos, a sheepherder himself, uses what would
have been a very vivid word picture to that society. God is now like a Lion to
Israel. The lion was probably the most feared animal of that time. It could
attack and devour a flock of sheep while the shepherd watched helplessly.
So this imagery sets the
stage and lets the people know that God is angry. Why is He angry? That is the
theme of the book. And I don't want to tell you just yet.
So, with these things in
mind, we see Amos is preaching in the Northern Kingdom to the Israelites, and he
begins by giving a series of speeches against Israel's surrounding enemies.
I can just imagine him
shouting and pronouncing judgment on these surrounding nations, and his audience
would be listening with delight as he listed the evil things their enemies had
done and what God was going to do to them. After all, there were a number of
prophecies, like the one in Jeremiah 30:7f, that had Israel anticipating a day
when God would deliver them from their enemies. When we studied Obadiah and
Joel, you may remember they talked about the day of the Lord when the nations
would be judged.
Let's look at the speeches in
Amos. Typically, people read these speeches and try to draw application from
each one. They try to analyze each nation's sin, etc. But that is perhaps, not
the best way to understand what Amos is doing here.
It seems that Amos is using
these speeches to build to a climax. He starts with foreigners, then denounces
Israel's neighbors and then the seventh speech is against Judah. You all know
that the number seven is significant in the Bible and it was to the Jew. They
would have thought this was the culmination of the sermon and they certainly
would have been pleased that Judah was going to get what was coming to her.
But Amos uses another
literary device to build the listener's interest and make him hang around till
the end. Let's look at what Amos does:
One of the first things you
notice is this saying, “for three transgressions of ________ and for four . .
.” What does that mean?
It is especially confusing
when he doesn't list three or four things after he says that It is occasionally
used to emphasize completeness as in Job 40:5 which says, “Once I have spoken,
and I will not answer; Even twice, and I will add no more.”
It is sometimes used to mean “a few” - one or two of
something. e.g. There were a couple of people at the meeting.
It is sometimes used to mean abundance - “7 even 8” is used
more often to refer to that. Micah 5:5 says,
When the Assyrian invades our
When he tramples on our citadels,
Then we will raise against him
Seven shepherds and eight leaders of men.
This means there will be
plenty of shepherds (leaders).
Sometimes it is more literal. The second number is what is being
emphasized and the phrase “3 even 4” is mostly used for poetic parallelism.
But it usually precedes a list of some sort. In Ps 62:11-12 we see the one/two
formula. In Proverbs 30:15-16, 18-19, 21-23, 29-31 we have the three/four
formula and in Job 5:19-22 and Proverbs 6:16-19 we have a six/seven grouping.
Proverbs 6: 16-19 is fairly well known....
In all these sections the
author gives a list corresponding to the larger number of the formula. The
significance of all this is that the typical Jew would have been expecting Amos
to list four transgressions for each of these nations mentioned. Does he do
that? No. Why?
Amos is going to adapt this
common 3-4 # formula to set up the audience and emphasize his message. Let's
look at the speeches:
1:3-5 - “Because they
threshed Gilead with implements of sharp iron.”
Damascus was the capitol of
the Syrians off to the North. Hazael and Ben-hadad were previous kings of Aram.
This probably refers to the constant battles between Gilead and the Syrians. The
word “threshing” is probably figurative for harsh and thorough conquest with
the idea of Aram's armies raking across Gilead slicing and crushing it as though
it were grain on the threshing floor. This could even refer to actual methods of
torture where a device like a sledge with iron prongs or knives was used on
prisoners, or as Ryrie says in his footnote--the huge sledges were literally
dragged over the enemies to crush them.
But notice, even though it is
a gruesome thing, there is only one transgression listed. Not four as the
audience would have expected.
Damascus fell to Assyrians in
1:6-8 - Philistines in the
West. The cities mentioned, Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Ekron were major cities
Their sin - “Because they
deported an entire population to deliver it up to Edom.”
Although it might look like
two crimes listed, the overall concept is that of one thing--large scale slave
trade. The Philistines were famous for capturing whole villages and selling them
into slavery to Edom and from there they were sold to other parts of the world.
Joel 3:4-8 talks further about their slave trade, and also mentions that Tyre
participated with them. Tyre is the next city mentioned.
1:9-10 - This refers to the
Phoenicians. Their crime against humanity was also slave trade with Edom.
Strictly speaking we might see two transgressions here, but it seems that it is
really one sin because the covenant of brotherhood was broken by the slave
So, we have three nations
condemned but only one sin listed for each. The 3/4 formula would have made the
audience anticipate the fourth nation to be mentioned as the climax of the
1:11-12 - When Amos mentioned
Edom fourth, I'm sure many thought this was the conclusion because the 3/4
formula might be mirrored in the speech as a whole with Amos denouncing three
nations and then concluding with a special denunciation on the fourth. And I'm
sure they were pleased. Ryrie mentions in his footnote on 1:7 that Edom was
Israel's bitterest enemy. That is truly a sad thing because the Edomites were
the descendants of Esau - Jacob's brother. Remember Jacob's other name was
“Because he pursued his
brother with the sword” certainly refers to this relationship between Israel
With all the emphasis on
three and four transgressions, these four separate statements might make it seem
like this is the culmination of the speech. But these four statements really all
describe one basic sin and that is the intense hostility for Israel.
So Amos continues,
1:13-15 - This is certainly a
gross sin. Ancient armies would sometimes do this to terrorize the enemy. And
certainly committing this atrocity against defenseless women and children showed
how immoral they had become. But again, I think there is just one conceptual sin
listed. It says they ripped open the pregnant women in
order to expand their borders. So it is their cruel imperialistic expansion
that is in view.
2:1-3 - Ammon and Moab were
daughters of Lot. More relatives. The sin listed is burning the bones of the
king of Edom. It seems that in ancient times, much importance was placed on a
dead man's body being peacefully placed in the family burial site, so he could
be, “gathered to his fathers.” (BKCOT) If you remember they hauled Joseph's
bones out of Egypt to bury them in the promised land.
So their sin was that of
2:4-5 - Now he is getting
closer to home. And he makes a couple of statements against them. but again, I
think these statements are really just an elaboration on one sin
The sin is rejecting the law of the lord
The means is by not keeping the decrees, and
The reason is because they followed false gods instead of the one
And as Judah is the seventh
nation mentioned, the audience would be certain this was the point of the
message. Actually, the sin listed is perhaps the worst so far and is appropriate
for the seventh pronouncement.
Notice the progression. He
starts off with foreign nations and gets closer to home as he lists relatives.
Notice the numbers. First we
notice Amos doesn't follow the usual convention of listing four ins after he
uses the 3/4 formula. And second, it appears at first that he is going to focus
his attention on Edom and then he continues. Then it looks like he is
culminating with Judah which is listed 7th. Seven is a significant number and
represents fullness, etc. The number eight is also significant in that it
follows seven and gives the idea of abundance or “therefore...”
So there is something wrong
with the way Amos has told his story. He didn't follow the rules. That is part
of understanding and appreciating the literature of the Bible. When someone
doesn’t follow the rules it is usually done on purpose to make you take
notice. The audience would have noticed this and been expecting something more.
In other words, he has set up his audience. He has told them of those that will
be destroyed and seemingly ends with Judah.
But - surprise - he continues
and adds an 8th item to the list -- Israel. Israel is the target of the speech
and the judgment. So we really shouldn't isolate each speech and the sin and
judgment of each nation and turn them into principles. These are more than
likely just building to #8.
The point is: Israel is worse
than all the other nations.
Now he gets personal. He
gives it to them. 2:6-16 is the 8th oracle. Here he lists 8 or 10 sins
(depending on how you count them) which could possibly be divided into 4
categories. So, Israel appears worse than the rest.
As you read verses 6-8 you
notice some parallel structure: e.g.: They sell the righteous for money and
(they sell) the needy for a pair of sandals.
Parallel structure was just
the Hebrew way of saying everything. They like to repeat themselves. So, in this
case, although it might look like separate sins, it is really a poetic way of
describing one sin. Since we divided the sins of the other nations conceptually,
we will do that here to be consistent.
I'm going to give you the
four conceptual categories:
Oppressing the innocent and the poor (2:6b-7a)
In verse 6 we see the justice
system was corrupt. The law said it was OK to sell a debtor to pay the debt, but
they were abusing it. The word righteous may mean the one who is right in a
lawsuit. So the rich and the powerful may have been able to bribe judges to
decide in their favor in a false lawsuit and that allowed them to sell the
“righteous” (the one who was innocent but declared guilty) into slavery to
pay the fine.
“Selling the needy for a
pair of sandals” shows that the people were being sold into slavery for small
debts or pledges. The law commanded the Israelites to give to the needy without
demanding repayment (Deut. 15:7f), but I guess “business was business” for
Verses 9-11 recounts God’s
provision for Israel. This reminds me of the unforgiving servant who refused to
forgive his fellow slave a small debt, when he had just been forgiven a huge
amount. I think God is heightening Israel's guilt by setting their rebellion
against the backdrop of his own gracious acts toward them. It was He who
conquered Canaan for Israel. At Jericho, Ai, etc. and later with Gideon and
Samson. They took his forgiveness and salvation and provision but did not pass
it on to others.
Engaging in pagan religious practices (2:7b)
Verse 7 - is probably a
reference to the fact that the Israelite men were going to pagan temples and
participating with the temple prostitutes.
Abusing the system of pledges and fines (2:8)
Verses 8 may also be
referring to a different scenario - First, they weren't supposed to keep a cloak
taken as a pledge overnight (Ex 22:26-27). It was assumed that only the very
needy would borrow anything and so lenders were not to charge interest and
profit from another person's misfortune, nor were they to keep coats that were
given as collateral overnight. The poor persons would need it to stay warm. The
poor person probably was required to give his coat as collateral so he couldn't
go from place to place borrowing from every merchant. If a guy came in without a
coat, that meant he had already borrowed for the day and he wouldn't be able to
borrow anything else. He needed his coat back so he could stay warm that night
and have something to use as collateral the next day. So these merchants were
keeping the coats and, to make matters worse, we see the second sin - they used
them to sleep on at night as they “worshipped” at pagan altars.
Showing lack of respect for God's special servants (2:12)
Verse 12 shows the corruption
and rejection of the religious system and the rejection of religious leaders.
The Nazarites had taken a vow not to drink any alcohol, but the Israelites were
coercing them to break their vows. They had no commitment to God and had no
respect for those who did.
Does anything stand out to
you at first glance?
I think two things stand out:
First, Amos finally lists
four sins. This is the point of his 3/4 formula. He didn't list four sins for
the other nations because Israel is the target of the coming judgment.
Second, These sins don't look
nearly as bad as those of the other nations. So what is the point? Why does God
consider Israel to be worse than all the other nations?
I think this points us to the
theme of the book.
THEME: God requires more from
those to whom He has given more. Luke 12:48
God had given the Jews the
law. They knew better. That was God's complaint against Judah in verse 4 -- that
Judah rejected the Law. And it is God's complaint against Israel, but he
elaborates because Israel is the target audience and he really wants to drive
the point home.
Amos wants you, the listener,
to ask the question, “Why are these lists so short?” Then he gets to Israel
who has many more sins listed than every other nation. Israel is really guilty -
more guilty than all the rest.
What do all these sins of
Israel have in common? Love of money and things had replaced love for people.
Money had become their god. Does this have any practical application for America
and for us?
The sins of Israel don't look
as bad as those of the other nations. After all, the other nations were going to
war, murdering people and ripping open pregnant women. But Israel's sins are
worse because they knew better. Theirs was the sin of hypocrisy.
One obvious problem in Israel
was the sin of materialism. We certainly face this problem in our society. We
can see how the Israelites compromised God's laws and principles to achieve
success (which they defined as wealth). We need to be careful that we do not
fall into the same trap. The Israelites did something else. Their theology said
that the wealthy person was a righteous person. We see that over and over again
in the parables in the NT. This further passified their conscience as they told
themselves that their prosperity was God’s sign of approval.
We see how the Israelites
abused people in need. I don't know if we overtly abuse people, but how
concerned are we for the poor? What are we doing for them? Are we ignoring them
or ministering to them? I think in our society we expect Uncle Sam to take care
of them. We criticize big government, but we depend on government to do what we
ought to be doing.
I said the Israelites’
theology said prosperity was a sign of spirituality. Is our theology such that
we assume they are poor because they are ungodly?
The main point of this
section is this: We look at society and think other people are bad...abortion,
homosexuality, murder, etc. but we do things that are, in God's eyes, worse,
because we know better. God expects more out of His people. This doesn't mean we
ignore the other sins. They are terrible, but don't gloss over what we think are
little sins, or what we have rationalized away as not even being a sin.
Remember: To him who has been
given much is much required.
The First Message (3:)
When you get to 3:2 you see
that Israel is chosen and you would normally think that means special treatment.
That is what the Jews thought at that time. There was a aberrant doctrine of
eternal security floating around Israel. They thought they were immune from
judgment, because they were the chosen people living in the chosen city. They
thought it didn't matter what they did. They took their relationship with God
for granted. I think 6:8 may be a reference to this attitude.
But to God, being chosen,
means having responsibility. Israel forgot the stipulations of the covenant made
in Deut. They were only secure as long as they followed God. That was part of
the OT law.
How does this relate to us
since we are not under the covenant blessings and curses?
The father/child relationship
is probably the most helpful for understanding this. I treat my children
differently than other children. I wrestle with them, play games, take them out
to eat breakfast, buy them things, etc., but I also spank them when they
disobey. If I’m watching several kids at my house, I don’t spank other
people’s kids when they disobey. It would probably be fair to say that I
expect more from my kids than the other kids. I know I’ve told my kids not to
do carrier landings on the coffee table (explain). If they do it, they will get
a spanking. ....
In the same way, we are
children of God. We can't remove the relationship no matter how much we sin.
What we can change is whether or not he needs to discipline us or whether He can
continue with His planned blessings for us. When Israel was bad, they were still
God's chosen people, they just didn't get to enjoy His blessings. Instead, God
had to discipline them. And He disciplined them for transgressions that didn’t
seem as bad to us as the other nations. But they knew better.
We have a tendency to want to
earn God's blessings and we think we deserve God's blessings. (That is one of
the main lessons from Hosea) but there is a fine line here that we need to
understand. We do not earn God's blessings by being good. We just free God up to
graciously bless us.
In 3:3-8 Amos uses seven
rhetorical questions to show that the judgment of God is inevitable. There is a
3:3 No element of force or disaster
3:4 One animal overpowering another
3:5 Man overpowering animals
3:6 Man overpowering other men
3:6b God overpowers man. Climax
3:7-8 God always reveals Himself and His plan to mankind. He tells
us what He wants us to do, but with that information comes responsibility to do
it. If we fail to do it, judgment will follow.
EXAMPLE: The theme of this
whole book and especially this section causes me to go back to the
parenting/discipline process for an analogy. When our children do something wrong,
but we have never before told them not to do that, we usually tell them what
they are doing wrong and not to do it again. But we don't discipline them then. However,
if we've told them not to do something and they do it anyway, the discipline is
sure to follow. Because they knew better. And the Israelites knew better!
3:9 Ashdod (Philistines) and
Egypt were former oppressors of Israel. But things were so bad in Israel now
that Amos is sarcastically calling them to witness the internal oppression going
on now. It is like saying, “You thought you oppressed them? You don't even
know how to oppress compared to them. Watch them oppress themselves.”
Because of the oppression God
was going to send an enemy in to destroy them. And in case some of the listeners
thought God would save them again this time, Amos compares God's saving them to
a shepherd snatching a leg bone or ear from a lion's mouth. Only a few people
would be spared.
The reference to the lion in
3:12 goes back to the first verse of Amos. Remember he said, “The LORD roars
from Zion and thunders from Jerusalem...” This is just another literary device
Amos uses which shows his skill as a writer.
So, the point of the first
message is that Israel was chosen and because of their rebellion and internal
oppression, judgment was certain.
4:1 This is certainly a colorful and sarcastic section. Women
are normally sensitive and compassionate, but note the contrast here. The women
are compared with the fat cows living on the lush pastures of Bashan. The idea
here is that these spoiled women demanded luxury from their “masters” (not
the typical word for husband--more sarcasm and reversal of roles) and the only
way their husbands could meet their demands was by oppressing the poor.
How does this apply to us?
Are we guilty of this? Are we so materialistic and so demanding that our spouse
has to work overtime to make enough money to satisfy our demands? Do we have to
cheat other people in our business in order to make the most money we can?
4:2 The cattle imagery is
continued by the meat hook imagery. See Ryrie's note.
So, economic exploitation was
one problem, now, he describes another.
4:4 continues the sarcasm.
Bethel and Gilgal were important sites in Israel's salvation history. (Gen
28:10-22; Josh 4-5) Normally the priest would call people to come worship, but
here we see Amos calling the people to come to Bethel and Gilgal to sin. The
sacrifices and tithes that they were bringing to God had become a sham. They did
everything to impress other people (vs 5), not to worship God. They were
actually going to church to sin. Not to mention the fact that they weren’t
going to Jerusalem to worship, which was the only authorized worship center for
4:5 Notice it says
“proclaim freewill offerings and make them known.” I think this shows that
they were bragging about their spirituality, their giving, etc. They were doing
things to be seen.
We might ask ourselves if we
are guilty of this.
4:6-11 shows God's response
to their hypocrisy and His repeated attempts to bring them back to Him. The
phrase, “Yet you have not returned to me” is repeated five times.
Amos 4:6 says “yet you have
not returned to me,” declares the Lord. The punishments mentioned in the next
few verses are an allusion to the promised curses of Deuteronomy 28.
Famine is mentioned in Amos 4:6 and in Deuteronomy 28:17-18.
Drought in Amos 4:7-8 and Deut 28:23-24.
Locusts in Amos 4:9 and Deut 28:38.
Plague in Amos 4:19 and Deut 28:60.
I think this shows God's
patience - that He tried so many times, and it shows His mercy because we see
that He started out with less severe measures and then increased the severity.
(Famine, drought, crop failure, disease and war.)
1. Description of certain judgment
2. Call for individual repentance
3. Accusation of legal injustice
4. Portrayal of a sovereign God
5. Accusation of legal injustice
6. Call for individual repentance
7. Description of certain judgment
1. Description of certain judgment
2. Accusation of religious hypocrisy
3. Call for individual repentance
4. Accusation of religious hypocrisy
5. Description of certain judgment
Remember Isa 6: When Isaiah
saw the glory of God on his throne, it caused him to repent and make himself
available to serve God.
That is the point of the
third and fourth messages. The Chiastic structure points us to that. The
sovereignty of God in message three should cause the repentance in message four.
There are a few things I'd
like to point out about these messages.
In 5:1 Amos summons the
people to hear his lament over Israel.
Israel's demise was so
certain that Amos lamented her fall as though it had already happened. This
should have been as shocking to the Israelites as it would to one of us to read
our own obituary in the newspaper.
5:2 Virgin Israel - a picture
of being in the prime of life and experiencing a premature death. Israel could
have and should have had a long prosperous life. Actually, God's plan was for an
eternal kingdom for them.
5:10 They hate the one who
points out their wickedness. Doesn't that sound like America. One example that
comes to mind is the abortion issue. The Pro-life people are abused and beaten
and thrown in jail when they try to protest (point out or reprove) those having
and performing abortions. People don't want to be told that they are sinning.
Darkness hates the light.
5:17 Just as God passed
through Egypt (in judgment), He was going to pass through Israel. Ex 12:12
5:18-20 Pictures a man
fleeing from one thing after another with no escape to be found.
5:23 Shows that their worship
and singing was just noise in God’s ears because their worship was merely
5:24 shows that God desires
justice. How you treat your fellow man is what is important to God and that is
what shows that you love God. Over and over again we see the theme repeated that
we are to love God and show it by our love for our neighbor.
This reminds me of the
parable of the Good Samaritan. In the story, the priest and Levite are on their
way from Jerusalem. If they were on
their way to Jerusalem, they might
have been able to use the excuse that they didn’t want to become defiled and
not be able to worship God. But they had already “worshipped God” (which
supposedly showed that they loved God) but they refused to help the injured man
(they did not love their neighbor) and that demonstrated that they really did
not love God. Their worship was also merely external.
6:2 This message addresses
the problem in Israel in which everyone felt they were better because they were
the chosen people.
I think this section speaks
4 You lie on beds inlaid with
ivory and lounge on your couches.
You dine on choice lambs and fattened calves.
5 You strum away on your harps like David
and improvise on musical instruments.
6 You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions,
but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph.
7 Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile;
your feasting and lounging will end.
6:8 We've already mentioned
the aberrant doctrine of eternal security going around in that day. They thought
they were invincible - partly because they were God's people, and because of
their own strength. The rest of this chapter shows how wrong they were.
6:12 “you have turned
justice into poison.” The judicial system which was designed to preserve the
nations health, had become a lethal poison within its body. This sounds exactly
like America with all the lawsuits that are going on and the lack of punishment
6:13 says “you who rejoice
in the conquest of Lo Debar.” Lo Debar was a city on the East side of the
Jordan which they had conquered. can mean either “word” or “thing” and
with the negative (loa) could mean “no thing.” Therefore, Amos could be
making a play on words (Lo Debar vs Lo Dabar) saying that they rejoice in
6:14 Reference to Assyria.
Hamath was a city in the
north. The Brook of Arabah marked the southern border of Israel during Jeroboam
II's reign. Mentioning these two cities shows how complete will be the
Three Billy Goats Gruff
Once on a time there
were three billy goats who were to go up to the hillside to make
themselves fat, and the name of all three was “Gruff.”
On the way up was a
bridge over a river they had to cross, and under the bridge lived a great
ugly troll with eyes as big as saucers and a nose as long as a poker.
So first of all came the
youngest Billy Goat Gruff to cross the bridge. “Trip, trap, trip,
trap!” went the bridge.
A little while after came
the second Billy Goat Gruff to cross the bridge. “Trip, trap, trip,
trap” went the bridge.
Just then up came the big
Billy Goat Gruff. “T-r-i-p, t-r-a-p, T-r-i-p, t-r-a-p!” went the
bridge, for the billy goat was so heavy that the bridge creaked and
groaned under him.
That was what the billy
goat said, and so flew at the troll, and poked his eyes out with his
horns, and crushed him to bits, body and bones, and tossed him into the
river. Then he went up to the hillside.
There the billy goats
got so fat they were scarce able to walk again, and if the fat hasn't
fallen off them, why they're still fat and so --
tale's told out.”
You are probably wondering
why I told you that story. Well, I did so because it illustrates what goes on in
oral literature. You typically read stories like this and the three little pigs
to children who can't read. They become totally caught up in the story and the
author sets them up for the unexpected conclusion. The NT does this for us with
the story of the Good Smaritan in Luke 10.
That is what Amos does to his
audience with the next three visions. He uses the same literary technique. The
first two visions are similar but the third one is different and catches the
listener or reader's attention.
A. The Vision of the Locust Swarm (7:1-3)
third vision does not begin with judgment nor have a plea for mercy and the
subsequent cancellation of judgment. The rhetorical purpose of this trilogy of
visions is to set the audience up for the message of the third vision. The
contrast of the third vision with the first two should draw attention to what is
being said emphasize to the audience that Israel is “out-of-line” and
doesn't measure up to God's standards. The prophet had asked for mercy in the
first two visions, but when he was shown just how bad the people were (with the
plumb line), he didn't ask for mercy because he could see that the judgment was
is the main point of these visions? First we notice that the first two visions
are like motion pictures. Amos responds to them emotionally and is overwhelmed
by the destruction and effect on the nation. The third vision is like a
snapshot. It invites reflection from the one seeing it. Amos sees the nation as
God sees it. He looks at the situation theologically (the plumb line) and from
reality (Amaziah's response) and sees that the judgment is deserved.
often we respond to bad things emotionally and blame God or think that it isn't
fair, but we don't see what is going on from God's perspective.
biographical account in 7:10-17 seems out of place but really isn't. It shows
the reaction of the leaders of Israel (especially the priest) to the message of
Amos. They rejected his warning and this proves that the visions are correct.
The nation is corrupt all the way up to the priests and the king.
report is not accurate. He accuses Amos of conspiring to kill Jeroboam with the
sword (7:11) but Amos' prophecy and reference to the sword was figurative
language (metonomy of adjunct) referring to God's judgment on Jeroboam or
perhaps it was picturing the severing of the king's line. Amaziah also says that
the Israelites will go into exile. Amos didn’t say that.
responded to Amaziah's accusation by describing in more detail what God's
judgment would bring. It is ironic that the details of Amaziah's saying would
indeed come true. Many would fall by the sword and the rest would be hauled away
vision in 8:1-3 fits in nicely with the preceding section. The three visions,
culminating with the vision of the plumb line, showed that judgment was very
much deserved. The response of Amaziah, the priest, showed the corruption of the
nation, even up through the leadership. It also showed that the warning was
rejected. Finally, the vision of the basket of ripe fruit showed the time was
ripe for executing the judgment. The time was now.
is word play in 8:2 between the word for “fruit” and the word
for “the end”. They both sound the same. I believe this
figure of speech is called paronomasia. When Amos said he saw a basket of fruit,
God says, “Yes, the end has come.”
This is one figure of speech that could be transferred into English. It is not the same type of figure of speech, but the idea is similar.
shows the hypocrisy of the people. They went to worship on the Sabbath, but they
resented the Sabbath because they couldn’t go to work and make more money by
cheating others. If the law can be summed up by loving God and loving your
neighbor, the Israelites showed that they did neither. And as we have pointed
out before, if you don’t love your neighbor, it proves that you don’t love
shows that it is worse to go without hearing the word of God than to go without
shows that God will shake the nation to separate the wheat from the chaff. And
when God shakes, no chaff will remain. Time and again, we see God will sort
everyone out in the end and He will determine who will be saved and who will
not. We have a tendency to want to judge others and determine if they are saved,
but that is God’s job.
ultimate purpose for God's judgment is not revenge, it is restoration. God
punishes us to bring us back to Him. This is always the purpose for discipline.
You see it in Mat 18 when Jesus talks about reproving your brother. The goal is
to bring him to the point where he sees his sin and repents. Peter understands
this and so he asks the question in Mat 18:21 about how many times we must
forgive. Jesus’ answer is - always.
will come a time when God will restore Israel.
shows that it will be time when godly people from other nations will be
included. That was Israel's purpose all along -- to be a testimony to the world
of how great God is and lead the nations to Him. In Eze 17:22-23 God says:
22Thus says the Lord GOD: “I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar, and will set it out; I will break off from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one, and I myself will plant it upon a high and lofty mountain; 23 on the mountain height of Israel will I plant it, that it may bring forth boughs and bear fruit, and become a noble cedar; and under it will dwell all kinds of beasts; in the shade of its branches birds of every sort will nest.
Matthew 13:31-32 Another parable he put before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field; 32 it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
these passages the birds represent the nations partaking of and benefiting from
the establishment of the kingdom.
It is the church's and the individual believer's role to attract the nations to
God and bring them into the kingdom.
15 says they will not again be rooted out from their land. This has to be a
reference to the millennium and eternity. The many references to the land
promise made to Abraham are one reason I believe there is still a future for
Israel and they haven't been replaced by the Church.
the unbeliever's sins often appear worse to us, in God's eyes, those of the
Christian are worse because we should know better. Chapters 1-2
like the Israelites looked down on her neighbor's for the atrocities they
committed, I think we look down on those that commit gross sins and think that
we are better than they, not realizing that God hates our sins of hypocrisy and
idolatry more. Chapters 1-2
like God was patient with Israel and gave opportunity to repent. God also is
patient with us an gives us time to repent, but don't abuse God's grace because
we don't know when He will finally bring judgment. Chapter 4
like Amos reacted to God's judgment emotionally and thought it was unfair, we
often do the same. When Amos saw things from God's perspective, he didn't
protest any more. Chapter 7
will restore Israel and will set up his kingdom so that all the nations can
benefit from His rule.