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ch. 1:1 to 2-5    ch. 2:6-16 

My Commentary On The Book Of Amos

 

Introduction

 

The following commentary is based on the 1984 edition of the New International Bible.  Chapter titles in this commentary correspond to the NIV Bible to make for easy comparison.

 

After King Solomon died, Israel had a civil war and divided into two, north and south.  The north was eventually overtaken by Assyria.  Later, the south was overthrown by Babylon.

 

The north was often called Israel or Ephraim.  The south was often called Judah.

 

Amos was a prophet that spoke the Word of the Lord to the northern kingdom of Israel, even though he came from the southern kingdom.  The prophet Hosea was from the north and he prophesied to the north along with Amos.

 

Amos was sent to the northern kingdom at a time when they were militarily and economically secure.  These were good times for Israel.  That being said, they had left their religious heritage, although they were a religious people.  

 

The northern Kingdom is much like the western world today, including the United States and Canada in respect to their economy, their religious practices, and morality.

 

The name "Amos" means "a burden", and a "burden" is what he became to Israel. He was a farmer and well respected man in his community that was south east of Jerusalem.  He was fairly wealthy.  He was not a priest or a man of religious training.  He was a businessman.

 

Amos spoke of God's judgment on the northern kingdom which took place within fifty years of his ministry.

 

One thing we should note is that the southern kingdom was taken into captivity and was subsequently set free.  The northern kingdom was destroyed and never did come back into existence.

 

Amos speaks of eight particular judgments.  From chapter 3 to 6 Amos gives 3 sermons concerning Israel's past, present and future.  From chapter 6 to 9 we see 5 visions.    

 

Hosea and Amos both prophesied around the same time to the northern kingdom of Israel.  It seems to me that Amos' message was directed to Israel as a nation, while Hosea's message was directed to Israel as God's wife. Amos is speaking more or less in a national sense.  Hosea is speaking more or less in a spiritual sense. 

 

I need to give a brief history of Assyria because in both Amos and Hosea we see Assyria mentioned often.  Assyria eventually came from the east and overthrew the northern kingdom of Israel as judgment on the northern kingdom. 

 

Assyria has evolved into present day Syria , but Assyria finds it's beginnings in the mid third millennium  B. C..  Scholars are divided to the exact date, but somewhere around 2200 B. C. they say Assyria became a nation, no longer just a group of ethnic people.  At that time Assyria was located in present day northern Iraq .  From there over the centuries, through wars and conquests, Assyria expanded it's control over other civilizations. By 670 B. C. Assyria had control of much of the middle east, including present day, Iraq, parts of Iran, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Cyprus, and part of modern day Turkey.  It was during this time when Amos and Hosea prophesied to the northern kingdom of Israel.

 

By 605 B. C. Assyria had declined and was taken over by Babylon, one of their arch-rivals for centuries. 

 

So, in our study of Hosea and Amos, we need to understand that Assyria wasn't modern day Syria.  Assyria's control was much broader, spreading over much of the middle east, from Iran to the east, Turkey to the north west, Cyprus to the far west, Egypt to the south.     

 

 

Judgment of Israel's Neighbours (ch :1:1 2:5)

 

Amos wrote these words around 760 B.C.  We know this because of the two kings mentioned in verse one.  Remember, Israel at this point was divided into two parts, north, often called Israel, and south, often called Judah.  Verse 1 says that Uzziah was king of the southern kingdom, which he was from 790 to 740 B.C..  Verse 1 also mentions that Jehoash was king of the northern kingdom, which he was from 793 to 753 B.C..

 

Verse 1 also speaks of an earthquake, which there is some extra-biblical evidence for.  Zechariah 14:5 also makes note of this very same earthquake.

 

Verse 1 tells us that Amos was a shepherd in Tekeo, which is south of Jerusalem.  This tells us that he was not part of the northern kingdom.  He lived in the southern kingdom.  This also tells us that he was not a priest or a so-called religious person..  He was a shepherd, and a very prosperous one at that as we will see later.

 

Verse 2 speaks of "the Lord roaring".  A lion roars just before he is about to pounce an is prey.  Throughout the Bible we see this kind of language used when it comes to God.  When He roars, He is about to pounce on His enemies.  He is about to bring judgment on those who rebel against Him, and so it is here.  God is warning the northern kingdom of Israel that if they don't change their ways, the Lord God is about to pounce on them in judgment, and that is what He ended up doing in 722 B. C. when Assyria overthrew the northern kingdom.

 

The fact the God is roaring from Jerusalem tells us something as well.  The northern kingdom did not view Jerusalem as their capital.  Jerusalem was in the south.  Yet beyond that, they did not view Jerusalem as the centre of Judaism, which God did.  So, right away, we see one problem that the north had in relation to God.

 

Note also in verse 2 that God "thunders".  This too shows the soon to come anger of the Lord to be poured out on Israel.  You see the word "thunder" used in the book of Revelation in regards to Jesus.  In Revelation you often see the phrase "the wrath of the Lamb".  The words "wrath" and "lamb" don't often go together, but when it comes to the Lamb of God, He is not the typical Lamb you see grazing in a quiet field.

 

Verse 2 speaks of the pastures drying up.  This is one way, and always has been, that God judges people and nations.  This is something we might want to think about today.  The idea that God still judges nations in these New Testament times is not a well accepted truth any more. 

 

From here to the end of the chapter we see the judgment of God that comes on those nations still left in Canaan that Israel had not defeated in battle.  These are obviously pagan nations.  So we learn here that God does not only judge and punish Israel, but secular nations as well.  I suggest that He does the same today for the same reason He did back in Amos' day.

 

Extra-biblical history states that these judgments came true, thus helping to validate the Biblical account.

 

In the remaining verses when you see the words "for three sins, and even for four", this is merely a poetic form of writing.  Much of the book of Amos was written in a certain Hebrew style common in those days, and thus the reason for the book's format and writing style.

 

When it comes to the mentioning of three or four sins, some take this literally as if God only had three or four things against these nations.  Most scholars however, say it's just poetic justice to say there are a number of sins that the Lord is not happy with.  Thus again, This is more about writing style than counting sins.

 

Verses 3 to 5 speak of the judgment of Damascus. Damascus is the oldest known continuing city in history. Damascus is the capital of present day Syria.

 

The main reason for God judging Damascus is their treatment of Israel.  As is often the case, we see the Abrahamic Covenant in affect.  God curses those nations who curse Israel.

 

I will not get into the details concerning how God judged these nations and the historical outcome of God's judgments.  I let others do that.  I will also not comment on each nation that is judged, only to say that again, you see the Abrahamic Covenant in effect.  He that curses Israel will be cursed, and he that blesses Israel will be cursed.  All these nations had done some harm to Israel except for the last nation which was Moab.  Nations today should take these judgments very seriously. God does not forget what He promised to Himself and spoke to Abraham.  Here in Amos, hundreds of years after speaking the promises to Abraham, God is still acting in accordance with His promise.  There is no Scripture to suggest that has ever changed.

 

I've just mentioned that Moab wasn't judged for cursing Israel but Edom.  The significance of this is that Edom was the descendents of Esau, Jacob's brother.  Jacob, or Israel, received the blessings and inheritance from the Lord, but Esau, or Edom, also received a blessing from God, although it was much smaller.  I believe for this reason God judged Moab for its attack on Edom.   

 

Note in verse 11 the judgment on Edom.  Edom was Esau, Jacob's brother.  This verse seems to suggest the ongoing struggle between Jacob and Esau, which lasts to this very day.  It is my understanding that the modern day Arab is a descended of both Esau and Ishmael.  Esau, in disobedience, married a woman from the descendants of Ishmael, thus producing a lineage  which we would call Arab today. 

 

In verse 4 of chapter 2 we depart from God's judgments on pagan nations to God's judgment on Judah, the southern kingdom.  Notice the reason why God judges Judah.  It is a different reason for His judgments on the above  mentioned nations.  He judged the pagan nations for the way they treated Israel, and He judges Judah for the way they treated the Law of God.  Judah did not take the Law of Moses seriously.  They did not obey the Law of Moses and began to worship other gods instead.  It was for this reason God judged the southern kingdom. I believe the same can be seen today.  God judges secular nations for two reasons; their treatment of Israel, and their national sins.  God judges His people, and today, that's the church, for two reasons; their neglect of the Word of the Lord, and their sins.

 

Judgment On Israel (ch. 2:6 - 16)

 

In the last chapter God has just pronounced judgment on some pagan nations around the northern kingdom of Israel for their mistreatment of Israel.  After that He pronounced judgment on the southern kingdom for their rejection of His laws, and now, we see in verse 6 He pronounces judgment on Israel, or, the northern kingdom for their rejection of His laws.  Remember when you see the word Israel in this context in Amos, this is referring to the northern kingdom, not the southern kingdom.

 

God says that He will not hold back His wrath.  He is not treating the northern kingdom any differently than how He would treat a pagan nation.  Sin is sin, and sooner or later God's wrath comes against the sinner unless he repents and puts his trust in God.

 

Verse 6 says that "they sell the righteous for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals".  The point here is the injustice seen in the northern kingdom of Israel.  The Law of Moses taught and demanded justice in society, but Israel had forsaken this justice.  Both the needy and those who wanted to live righteously were taken advantage of .  Life was all about prosperity, even if the righteous and the needy had to suffer, those with influence took advantage of the less fortunate for personal gain.  That sounds like the western world today.  Beyond overtly oppressing the needy and poor in our society, the rich, the politician, oppress  the poor and needy in a more covert way, and maybe not even knowing they do so.  The rich, the politician, for the most part, have forgotten what it is like to be poor and needy, or, maybe they never were poor and needy and don't know what that is like.  Therefore, their economic and political policies don't take into consider the needy and poor, who suffer because of their policies.   

 

Verse 7 continues on the same thought.  "They trample on the heads of the needy".  The needy are "oppressed".  Former Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada often talked about the "just society".  People differ on what a just society really is and whose sense of justice you use, but here in the northern kingdom of Israel, the only basis for justice was God's law as seen in the Law of Moses, which they were obviously not following.

 

Verse 7 states that "father and son" use the same girl.  There is some debate among Bible teachers to what this is speaking of, yet many believe this is speaking of sexual immorality.  Compare that to today, and there's not much difference.  Because of these sexual sins "God's holy name is profaned" among the nations.  Throughout the Old Testament you notice that this is one thing that really bothers God.  His good name is extremely important to God, more than we can ever know, and when Israel, or us, misrepresent His name, we profane His name.  I suggest that the modern church does that all the time by misrepresenting the name of Jesus.  All we do is supposed to be done in the name of Jesus, but in reality, what we do is in our own name.  We promote ourselves more than Jesus, and then we say we do it in the name of Jesus.  That is blasphemy.  That is profaning the name of our Lord.  That is misrepresenting the Lord's name to the world, and if someone did that to our good name, we wouldn't be very happy about that either.

 

The fundamental problem with both the northern and southern kingdom of Israel back then, and for the west today, is the forsaking of the ways of God.  God's laws act as a restrainer for sin, but once the restraint is gone, sin abounds.  To the degree in which we lay aside God's law is the degree to which sin rules in a society, and that is sure relevant today. 

 

Verse 8 speaks of the worship of the Canaanite gods they were to reject.  Instead of worshiping their God only, they worshipped other gods.  So not only did Israel profane God's name, they basically replaced it with the name of other gods.

 

The word "garment" in verse 8 is probably in reference to certain Jewish religious clothes that would have been warn by the priests.  They wore these clothes min pagan worship.

 

The reference of wine received from fines seems to be debatable among Bible teachers.  It seems that the poor who were unjustly fined could pay with wine if they had no money.  So the wine that these Israelis were drinking was gotten through unjust means.      

 

Verse 9 we see reference to God destroying the Amorites.  This took place when Joshua and Israel crossed over the Jordan River in the promised land of Canaan. 

 

The Amorites are compared here by God to a tall and strong tree.  God destroyed the whole tree, from the fruit above, right down to the roots below.  When God pours out His wrath in judgment, He goes all the way.  There are no half way measures concerning the judgment of God.  In Genesis 16:16 we see that the Amorites were sinful way back then, way back in Abraham's day, but they had more sin to commit.  They had to get worse.  There comes a tipping point with God.  Once sin in a nation has reached a certain point, there is no return, no getting around God's judgment.  It took more than 400 years, but the Amorite sin did reach its climax, and they were destroyed by Israel as an act of God's judgment.  This act of judgment was two fold.  It punished the Ammorites for their sin and blessed Israel with the land belonging to the Ammorites, which was a direct fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant.

 

Verse 10 continues the short history lesson.  If you notice as you read how the Lord speaks to Israel in the Old Testament, He often reminds them of the past, what He has done for them, and what they have or have not done for Him in return.  Remembering the past is something that the Lord wants us to do.  It should not become a matter of tradition and routine though.  Remembering the past is meant to be instructional.  We need to learn from both our successes and our failures.  We also need to remember how good the Lord has been to us.  

 

In verse 11 God states that He caused both prophets and Nazirites to rise out of Israel .  We know about prophets.  They spoke the word of the Lord to Israel.

 

When it comes to Nazirites, there are two classes of Nazirites.  There were life-long Nazirites and there were short term Nazirites who took the oath of the Nazirite vow for one reason or another.  The Hebrew word translated as Nazirite means, to separate, to consecrate, or, to devote.  The whole idea  of being a Nazirite, whether for long term or short term, was to devote yourself totally to the Lord and abstain from anything remotely associated with the world.  They could not drink any wine or alcoholic drink, or any  stimulating drink, such as coffee, which they would not have had in those days.  They were to only drink water.   They were to grow their hair long and ware torn old clothes.  They were not to bathe.  During the life of the Nazirite, he was to look disgusting to the world, but in his inner self good towards the Lord.  Being a Nazirite was a matter of self denial.  There were specific instructions in the Law of Moses for Nazirites and how they should live.

 

If for some reason the person taking the Nazirite vow broke the vow, there was a purification process that he would go through in order to pick up the vow where he left off. 

 

Both Samson and Samuel were Nazirites in the Old Testament, while John the Baptist was one in the New Testament.  Some say that the apostle Paul took a Nazirite vow in Acts 18:18, and 21:22 to 26.  In my thinking this might be somewhat questionable.  Paul actually shaved his head in this vow.  He didn't grow his hair long.

 

Here  in Amos 2, both the prophet and the Nazirite was meant to be a godly witness to Israel, but as is often the case, Israel paid no attention to these witnesses.

 

From verse 13 to the end of this chapter we see God pronouncing judgment on Israel.  It did not matter how strong the Israeli army was, they all would fall in God's judgment.

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