Warning to Judah and Israel Since Israel sinned to the point where she appears to be beyond hope, Hosea then turns Its words of warning to the south: Though thou, Israel, play the harlot, yet let not Judah offend” (vs. 15). Do not go up to Gilgal, he warns, or to Bethavin. These were popular centers of Baal worship. Do not take an oath in the Lord’s name in those idolatrous places. Then he spoke the tragic words of verse 17: “Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone. “ Although the Assyrians did not destroy them until thirty-eight years later, there is no saving the nation of Israel, because the people will continue their idolatrous activities until their dying breaths.
Chapter 5 continues the refrain of judgment. Verse 9 says, “Ephraim
shall be desolate. “ Therefore, God continues in verse 12, “Will I be unto Ephraim as a moth, and to the house of Judah as rottenness. “ Subtly, like a moth in a closet of woolen clothes, He will weaken them militarily. But when they realize what has happened, instead of turning to Him for strength, which was the purpose of His remedial judgment, Israel turned to Assyria and its king. “He could not heal you, the Lord says, and because you did not respond correctly to my subtle judgment, I am going to come in as a lion and when I tear you to pieces, there will be none to deliver you.”
God’s Wounded Love Following His plea for return in 6:1-3, we have what I believe to be God’s lament of wounded love, beginning in verse 4. God calls out, “O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? 0 Judah, what shall I do unto thee?” I can understand men crying out, “What shall I do to be saved?”: But here God is saying, “What shall I do to save men?” This is beyond my comprehension. “Your goodness, “ He says, “is like the morning cloud and the early dew. “ They are beautiful for the moment, but are too feeble to produce any harvest. They come briefly, then disappear.
The word “goodness” (loyalty) comes from a root word which means
a bending of the neck in submissiveness. He is saying, “You seem to
submit yourselves to Me, but it does not last. You come back, then sin again. You have done it so often, it does not mean anything. What shall I do with you?”
We can see this in the lives of Christians as some are involved in a
constant cycle of rededication and sin, then rededication and sin. God
still says “I desired mercy, and not sacrifice. “ A hypocritical and brief self-sacrificing attitude does not please Him. It is loyalty in which He de-lights.
Indictment of Kings In chapter 7 we learn that it was not only the common people who committed these sins. Verse 3 says, “They make the king glad with their wickedness, and the princes with their lies. “ We know that Jeroboam II was an evil king, and this seems to indicate that he was involved in all of the wicked practices in the city. “They are all adulterers.“ They are “sick with bottles of wine.“ “There is none among them that calleth unto me.“ “All their kings are fallen.“ These statements are a reference to the fact that the history of the northern kingdom is one of assassinations and military coups. Not a single one of the kings of the north, from Jeroboam I to Hoshea, worshipped Jehovah or did right in His sight.
Verse 8 continues, “Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people;
Ephraim is a cake not turned.“ Looking at Israel from the outside, in the
time of Jeroboam II, we could see prosperity, an expanding monarchy, and expanding territory. We will learn in Amos, that materially the people were living very well. But decay was eating away at the heart of the system and it had only thirty-eight more years to five. Ephraim did not know this, because none of them were watching. Wine and harlotry had taken away their understanding. They were oblivious that they were dying. So, God said, “Ephraim is a cake not turned.“ If I forget a pancake on the griddle, then return and lift up a comer to see it black and hardened, what do I do? Even though it looks good on top, it is ruined underneath. Throw it down the garbage disposal! Symbolically, this is what Hosea says is going to happen to Israel in 722 B.C.
Verse 9 continues, “Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth
it not. yea, gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth not. “ The nation is unaware of how it has been weakened by its moral degeneracy and inner rottenness. It is like a man who walks around with a head of gray hair and thinks he still looks like a teen-ager because he has not looked in the mirror. The gray hairs spoken of here are indicative of moral decay. It has spread throughout the system, but, Israel does not even know it.
“When I began to bring chastening rods upon Ephraim,” God
said, “she became like a silly dove without sense. She ran to Egypt and to Assyria. She went everywhere except back to Me where there was genuine deliverance.” Like Elijah, when King Ahaziah sent to inquire of Beelzebub, the Lord is saying to Ephraim, “Is there not a God in Israel?” Verse 14: “They have not cried unto me with their heart. They wail on their beds, but only for the sake of grain and new wine. “ They are concerned only with poor harvest, heartbroken because there is no grain or new wine with which to worship Baal. They are not crying because God rejected them.
“Even though it was I who strengthened their arms, “ God says, “they
devise mischief against Me. “ It is as if I had trained a man to become an expert in karate and then when he earned his black belt, he turned and struck me a lethal blow with the edge of his hand. We ask in shock, what decent person would even think of doing such a thing?
Through this entire indictment we can trace the theme of Psalm 1,
which teaches that godless thinking leads to careless speaking which in
turn leads to godless living. That principle applied to Israel, and I might
add, it applies today also.
Finally, God says (verse 16), “they are like a deceitful bow. “ If you pull
back the string on a bow, expecting the arrow to fly toward the target, and it veers off to the side, you have used a deceitful bow. In the Old Testament, there are sixteen different words for sin and one of them means “to miss the mark, “ or, to fall short and go astray. Throughout all the years, this is what Israel did. She was a deceitful bow who had missed God’s mark.
Transgression at Gilgal In 9:15, God once again looks at Ephraim, but this time as a man would look at his bride, and He says, “All their wickedness is in Gilgal.“ Gilgal was a major center of Baal worship; and like a jealous lover, God says, “there I hated them.” This statement is an illustration of a man, walking outside a house, and seeing, against an upstairs window shade, the shadow of his wife in another man’s arms. As the truth of her unfaithfulness strikes home to his heart, he would remember the location, and would never forget that place. From that time on he could say, “I learned to hate her there.” God looked at the harlotry Israel practiced at Gilgal and said, “there I hated them: for the wickedness of their doings I will drive them out of mine house, I will love them no more.”
Finally, in 11:1 we read, “When Israel was a child, then I loved him,
and called my son out of Egypt.“ Although God was speaking to Israel, we know that Matthew, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, said that Israel was really personified in the Lord Jesus Christ and that He fulfilled this prophetic statement when He was called out of Egypt (Matthew 2:15).
In verse 5, He prophesies that Assyria is going to be their king.
But as God contemplates the necessary judgment, He cries out (vs. 8) “How shall I give thee up Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel?” His compassions are kindled within Him and He says, “I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger.“ He will not destroy Ephraim again, but will bring them like birds from Egypt, and they will dwell in their own houses.
Ultimate Redemption With that eschatological statement, God looks beyond the impending Assyrian invasion to occur in 722 B.C. and said, “I will regather them.“
In chapter 13:14, His mercy again breaks forth and He promises, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: 0 death, I will be thy plagues; 0 grave, I will be thy destruction.“ It is from this passage of Scripture that Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes his paean of victory over death recorded in First Corinthians
God finally says, as Hosea must have said about Gomer (14:4ft):
I will heal their backsliding. I will love them freely, for mine anger
is turned away from him. I will be as the dew unto Israel; he shall
grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.
LXXIII AMOS GOES TO ISRAEL
Amos was a contemporary of Hosea, but where Hosea majored
on the religious adultery of Israel, Amos stressed their social sins. Both prophets, whose ministries took place thirty to forty years prior to the Assyrian conquest, placed themselves in the breach. It was as if the nation of Israel was rolling downhill like a giant snowball, gathering momentum as it involved itself in more wickedness, injustice, and idolatry, until it was about to plunge over the edge of a chasm and disappear forever into the gorge below. Hosea and Amos, were the prophets who attempted to stop the downward course of this giant juggernaut by calling the nation to repentance.
The messages of Hosea and Amos contained all the prerequisites
for repentance. They pointed out both national and individual sins; they warned that judgment was soon to come; they stated that God was willing and ready to accept them if they would repent and return. The Lord, in His longsuffering hesed love, was waiting to take them back if they returned to Him. But, because of the sins of the people, and of their kings who consistently led them astray and participated
with them, they would not return. As God had said in Hosea 11:2, the
more often He sent the prophets to them, the more often they turned
The Date of Amos Since Amos dated his ministry to a well known catastrophic and historic event, we know from verse 1, that he prophesied two years before an earthquake, but wrote the book some time afterward. Zechariah 13:5, 240 years later, also recalled this earthquake, saying, “Ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah.”
The prophecies of Amos concerned Israel during the days of Uzziah,
king of Judah and Jeroboam II, king of Israel. Second Kings 14:23-26 and II Chronicles 26, give us information about these kings. We know from our previous study, that Uzziah was co-regent with his father from 790 to 767 and reigned alone from 767 to 739 B.C. Jeroboam II reigned from 793 to 753, being co-regent with Jehoash from 793 to 782. Since these reigns overlap between 767 and 753, we can accurately date Amos’s prophecy to sometime during that fourteen or fifteen year overlap.
His Format Amos had a unique presentation. He was a sheepherder from Tekoa, in the southern kingdom, where there had been spiritual reform under Uzziah. So, God sent him from there to preach to the north against its corrupt and evil worship of Baal. Amos would not be welcome, and neither would his message, because he was sent from the south to preach God’s judgment against the nation of Israel. However, to ease the shock and reduce rejection, he used a psychological approach which would get the ear of his listeners. He worked up to his words of judgment against Israel by beginning to call down God’s judgments on the enemies of Israel, which were the surrounding nations. Amos began in verse 3 with “For three transgressions, and for four.“ This is known as ascending numerology. He did not mean that there were only three or four transgressions. He meant there were an ascending number of transgressions which were continuing at that very time.
Throughout the book, and especially in the early pronouncements
of judgment upon the surrounding nations, we once again see God as
the Master Chess Player who is going to move and judge the nations as He wills.
His Setting To complete the historical picture, Hosea was still alive and living out his pedagogy in biography. Even Jonah may have been still alive. Tiglath-pileser was growing up in northern Assyria with dreams of con-quest.
Isaiah and Micah were growing up in the southern kingdom.
Against this background, Amos, obeying the call of God, left his herds
and sycamore figs in Tekoa and journeyed north to pronounce God’s
judgment against the nation of Israel.
Judgment on the Nations Amos’s presentation began with judgment against three natural and historical enemies of Israel. It then ascended to God’s judgment on three distant relatives of Israel. It then advanced to Judah, the close relative in the south. Finally, the Israelites themselves were declared
ripe for judgment.
Syria First he called down God’s judgment on Damascus, the capital
of Syria. He mentioned the historical individuals, saying, “I will send
a fire into the house of Hazael.“ Hazael was king of Syria from 841 until 806 B.C. It “shall devour the palaces of Ben-hadad.“ Ben-hadad was the name of the predecessor of Hazael and the name of Its son who reigned from 806 to 770. Then verse 5 adds:
I will break also the bar of Damascus, and cut off the inhabitant
from the plain of Aven, and him that holdeth the sceptre from the
house of Eden: and the people of Syria shall go into captivity unto
Kir, saith the Lord.
Amos prophesied the destruction of all Syria’s symbols of power and
military might, including the huge gate-bar that kept invading armies
from storming into the city. It was as if someone today prophesied the
destruction of the Pentagon. Isaiah 17 will later duplicate this refrain
which was initiated by Amos.
Philistia I am sure that when the inhabitants of Israel heard God’s
judgment on Damascus, they screamed out a giant shout of
approval. Then Amos moved on, saying in verse 6, “Thus saith the Lord. For three transgressions of Gaza, and for four. . . “ Gaza was the major city of the Philistines and I am sure the people raised more cheers at hearing judgment pronounced against this historic enemy who, back in 1010 B.C., had killed King Saul and had been a constant thorn in their sides ever since.
As Amos continued through verse 8, he mentioned three more
major cities of the Philistines. The only one not mentioned, among the
five city pentapolis, was Gath. God also promised to cut off the inhabitants from Ashdod, Ashkelon and Ekron.
Phoenicia Amos then called God’s judgment down upon Tyre, the capital
of Phoenicia. Keep in mind that Jeroboam II was the great-grandson
of Jehu, who had Jezebel, daughter of a Phoenician king, thrown out of the window. There would be more cheers at hearing of Phoenicia’s downfall. God said, “I will send a fire on the wall of Tyrus, which shall devour the palaces thereof” (vs. 10). We discussed the Ugarit tablets which contained Canaanite poetry demonstrating that Baal used
fire constructively. The tables would be turned on the Phoenicians, who were ardent Baal worshipers, because they would discover that Baal did not control fire but Jehovah did and He would turn it against them.
Edom In verse 11, Amos began to pronounce judgment on the closer
relatives of Israel by saying, “For three transgressions of Edom, and for
four.” He mentioned that Edom had played the traitor by pursuing her
brother, Israel, with the sword. He said, “I will send a fire upon Teman.“
Teman was the capital of Edom. We read earlier that Obadiah took up this same theme in his short but powerful book.
Ammon Verse 13: “For three transgressions of the children of Ammon, and for four.” The Ammonites were descendents of the incestuous relationship between Lot and his daughter. We learn here that the Ammonites were to expand their territories at any cost. They were similar to the Nazis, who in World War II would do anything to expand their territory. Amos says that the Ammonites ripped open the pregnant women of Gilead. They killed everyone and tried to practice genocide so they could expand their borders.
Moab Amos 2:1 begins the promise of judgment against a third
near relative of Israel. The Lord says, “For three transgressions of Moab, and for four...” The Moabites were also descendants of the incestuous relationship between Lot and his daughter. Here, God appears to be concerned with what enemies do to each other. He said, “because he burned the bones of the king of Edom into lime.” By now, the cheers must have been long and loud because the Israelite audience had heard judgment pronounced against six surrounding nations. Perhaps they were even saying, “Jehovah is the kind of God we want. We need a God who will punish our enemies.”
Judah Amos then brings the message a little closer to home. Verse
4 says, “For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, . . . “ That surely produced cheers, because there was no love lost between the northern and southern kingdoms, even though during the time of Jeroboam II and Uzziah, the kingdoms were prosperous and there was a relative peace. God said (vs. 5): “I will send a fire upon Judah, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem.“ We know this prophecy was fulfilled in 586 B.C.
Israel’s Social Sins Since the theme of Amos, following these pronouncements, is going to deal specifically with what an ideal citizen should be; what God expects of men; and the social injustices He condemns, we should look at Psalm 15 where King David described the ideal citizen.
Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy
holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness,
and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his
tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach
against his neighbor. In whose eyes a vile person is condemned;
but he honoureth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his
own hurt, and changeth not. He that putteth not out his money to
usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these
things shall never be moved.
As Amos continues his narrative, we will see that the Israelites have
fallen far short of God’s description of an ideal citizen. A New Testament complement is I John 3:17: “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?”
With the cheers going up around him, Amos brought the message
home to their hearts beginning with 2:6: “Thus saith the Lord, For three
transgressions of Israel, and for four...” Suddenly, there was a dead silence. You could have heard a pin drop as the audience thought, “What? Not us!” Amos had gone around in a large circle, drawing the net closer and closer, right to the bull’s eye, the people of Israel.
God said, “I will not turn away the Punishment thereof; because they
sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes. They trampled on the heads of the helpless and turned aside the humble. A man and his father resorted to the same prostitute,“ probably referring again to the prostitution in the Baal temples.
Verse 8 refers to the custom of taking a man’s garment as pledge
for a debt. Deuteronomy 24:10-13 is very explicit regarding this practice. In those times, people would often sleep out of doors, and the cloak was all that protected them from the elements. Deuteronomy 24: 10 says, “When thou dost lend thy brother anything, thou shalt not go into his house to fetch his pledge.“ The debtor was obliged to bring it out to him. Verse 13 is very explicit, “In any case thou shalt deliver him the pledge again when the sun goeth down, that he may sleep in his own raiment, and bless thee.”
The equivalent in our culture would be if a man ran out of fuel
and, not having any money or a credit card, left his spare tire at the gas station until he could return and redeem it. He certainly would not
expect the attendant to put the tire on his own car and drive until it was bald, then return the tire to him. But, that is what the creditors in Israel were doing with garments taken as pledges. They even took the garments into the Baal temples and spread them before the altars, lying on them when they purchased the services of the temple prostitutes. The wickedness was widespread because even the ungodly priests charged innocent people exorbitant fees which they could not pay, then went in to their homes and confiscated the wine, on the pretext of putting it in the house of Baal, but they sat around inside the temple, carousing and drinking wine which was to have been given to the gods.
Israel’s Past Wrongs Beginning in verse 9, Amos reminded them of the things God had done in the past. It is a historical summarization which began back in 1446 B.C. and explains how they corrupted everything God planned for their good. He had raised up Nazarites-dedicated men who, among other requirements, were not to drink wine. “But,“ He said, “ye gave the Nazarites wine to drink. You did not want them to serve Me.“ In addition they “commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not.” The Lord was obviously wearied by their sin. Verse 13 says, “Be-hold, I am pressed under you, as a cart is pressed that is full of sheaves.“ The picture is that of an overloaded cart whose axles are beginning to buckle.
Prophecy of Conquest Verses 14 through 16 describe the coming battle with the Assyrians in 722 B.C. and demonstrate that regardless of how powerful the Israelites may believe themselves to be, in that day when the enemy attacks, the places of refuge will be destroyed. It will not matter how fast a person runs, he win not reach safety. The stalwart man, the one most powerful in battle, will weaken and fall. Even the mighty man will not be able to save his life. The archer will not be able to stand his ground. As the army retreats, his position in the rear will be overrun. No one will be able to escape, not even the one who rides a horse. Even the bravest man will flee naked. So vicious and terrible will be the onslaught of the Assyrians, that not even the most courageous will stand. After hearing this description, the people’s hearts should have failed them for fear. Yet, after listening to the message of their impending doom, they appeared to have the attitude that “it cannot happen to me; it win not be in my lifetime.
Israel’s Responsibilities Amos 3:2 reminds Israel of God’s sovereign election and the special position that required the moral responsibility indicated in Exodus 19:6: “And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.“ This is a statement of the Old Testament concept that spiritual fight and privilege bring with them added responsibility for the recipients. Notice the words of Psalm 147:19-20: “He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them.”
Our Lord Jesus describes this same concept in Luke 12:48:
But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes,
shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is
given, of him shall be much required and to whom men have committed
much, of him they will ask the more.
May God help us as ministers and teachers, to handle the Word
with care, to be exacting students of the Word, not to wrest the Scriptures, and to attempt each and every day to be a steadfast and consistent witness for Jesus Christ, bringing souls into His kingdom.