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introductory readings designed to give you some necessary Biblical and historical background to
the Prophet Amos.
1) Read Deuteronomy 17:14-20.
* a) What are the people forbidden here?
* b) The king is forbidden 6 things, what are they?
* C) What must the king do regarding the book of the law?

2) Read Deuteronomy 18:9-20.

* a) What is required of the people in regard to legitimate prophets?

3) Read Deuteronomy 28.

* a) Name two or three of the blessing which are most meaningful or appealing to you.
Explain why?
* b) Name two or three of the curses that would most terrify you. Explain why?
* c) Do your actions correspond to the blessings you find most meaningful/appealing?
(Personal reflections need not be shared)

4) Read 1 Kings 11.

* a) Compare verses 1-10 of this chapter with Deuteronomy 17:14-20. What things
forbidden the king did King Solomon do?
* b) What is the reason given for the rebellion of Jeroboam, son of Nebat (see 1 Kings
11:26-34). [Note: Jeroboam, son of Nebat is often called Jeroboam I by modern scholars;
this is to distinguish him from a second Jeroboam who reigned as king during the time of

5) Read Deuteronomy 12:1-14.
* a) Where did Solomon end up building this sanctuary/temple?

6) Read 1 Kings 12:1-13:3.

* a) What was the sin of Jeroboam I?
* b) What is propehcied against him and his sin?

Verse 1: The Superscription.

Vs 1 The words of Amos, one among the shepherds of Tekoa, which he saw regarding Israel
during the reign of Uzziah, the king of Judah, and during the reign of Jeroboam, the son of
Joash, the king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.
What is the focus and purpose of this superscription (vs 1)? At first sight it may seem that its primary
purpose is to introduce the reader to the prophet and to the time period of his ministry; and this is not
incorrect. However, notice that everything of importance that is told to us in this first verse is related to
“The words”. We are told four things:
1. We are told who received the word-Amos.
2. We are told how he received it-in a vision.
3. We are told something of its content-it concerns Israel.
4. We are told when Amos’ vision concerning Israel and his subsequent ministry took place-During the
reigns of Uzziah and Jeroboam II, two years before and earthquake.
The fact that Amos is said to have received the word in a vision may sound odd to us at first; but it
shouldn’t, since it’s a typical way of speaking. Do you see what I’m saying?
Words (the Hebrew term is dabar= “daw-baw”). The term usually refers to speech or words, whether
spoken or written. It could however also refer to business, work or actions. Actions, like words, can be
revelatory. This is why the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation states:
In his goodness and wisdom God chose to reveal himself and to make known to us the hidden purpose
of his will (Eph 1:9) by which through Christ, the Word made flesh, man might in the Holy Spirit have
access to the Father and come to share in the divine nature (Eph 2:18; 2 Pet 1:4). Through this
revelation, therefore, the invisible God (Col 1:15; 1 Tim 1:17) out ot the abundance of His love speaks
to men as friends (Ex 33:11; John 15:14-15) and lives among them (Bar 3:38), So that He might invite
and take them into fellowship with himself. THIS PLAN OF REVELATION IS REALIZED BY
God’s actions, and by extension the actions his prophets perform, are themselves as revelatory as
spoken words. (See these “prophecy in action stories: Isaiah 20:1-6; Jer 19:1-15;). These actions
dramatically reinforce oracles which accompany them. Other stories along similar lines can be found
here (2 Kings 13:14-19; Ezek 4:1-8).
The words which Amos saw refers primarily to his visions narrated later in the Book.
Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa.
The name Amos means “one who carries a burden.” This is a fitting name for a prophet since one of
the words for prophecy in Hebrew is massa (mas-saw), which is derived from the same root (amas) as
Amos. Amos=one who carries a burden, is a prophet who carries the burden (massa) of the Lord.
(Note: The word massa is usually translated into English as “oracle.”)
Shepherd. The word used here (noqed= no-kade) is very rare. It is used in only one other place in the
bible, 2 kings 3:4, where it refers to King Mesha of Moab. The noqed sheep are a short-legged, ugly
species of sheep which were highly prized for their fine wool. Only someone of wealth would own
them. Does this mean that Amos was wealthy? According to Jewish tradition he was. Christian
commentators are divided. Amos appears to be a rather cultured individual. His writing is in good
Hebrew style and his poetry is exceeded in the bible only by that of the aristocratic Isaiah. His
knowledge of the history of his own nation, along with his knowledge of the history of surrounding
nations suggests he is a man of some education. Likewise he seems to have had some knowledge of
astronomy. All of this suggests a man of some means.
On the other hand, in chapter 7 he identifies himself as a herdsman but uses a much more generic term
that noqed. He also describes himself a a “dresser of sycamore trees.” This means he poked holes into
the fig-like fruit of this tree just before it began to ripen. This slowed down the ripening process and
made the generally bitter fruit a bit sweeter and more palatable. Such fruit was the diet of the poor. This
suggests that Amos was not a man of means.
I would propose this solution. At the time of Amos’ ministry king Uzziah of Judah was involved in
massive building projects and also a large military build up. This of course took money, and
governments get money by taxation. The taxes in Judah had become so severe that it was becoming
hard for even the wealthy to maintain the lifestyle they were used to. As a result of this, the rich began
to devise various ways of cheating the poor to supplement their income.
Amos was from Judea but he preached in the Northern Kingdom of Israel where the very same
problems existed. In his preaching Amos is unmerciful towards the rich for their treatment of the poor.
All of this leads me to the following conclusion: Amos had been wealthy but had fallen on hard times
do to the excessive taxation. Unwilling to supplement his dwindling income by taking advantage of the
poor he may have sold off most of his noqed sheep and started raising other types of livestock. He may
also have been forced to supplement his income as a “dresser of sycamore trees.” But all of this is, of
course, speculation.
Tekoa. The name probably refers to a wilderness area (2 Chron 20:20) located south of Jerusalem. It
could also refer to a town in this area.
The reign of Uzziah/Jeroboam. To find out more about Uzziah click here. To find out more about
Jeroboam II click here

Verse 2: Keynote of the book

Vs 2 He (Amos) said: The Lord does roar from Zion, gives out his voice from Jerusalem, the
meadows of the shepherds mourn, the height of Carmel withers.
The Lord roars from Zion and gives out his voice from Jerusalem. As a stockherder, a roaring lion
would have been one of Amos’ worst nightmares. In the bible the people of God are often referred to as
God’s sheepfold and He is often described as a Shepherd. Amos’ oracles make it clear that God,
Israel’s shepherd, is about to become their worst nightmare.
The roar of a Lion is often a figure of hostility in the bible, describing what the enemies of God and
his people do. In Psalm 22:13 it is used to described the enemies of the righteous psalmist. In Psalm
74:4 it is used to describe the yelling of God’s enemies (Babylonians) in as they destroyed the
Jerusalem temple.
We are perhaps to understand that God is doing his roaring thru the prophet {see Amos 3:1-8
especially vss 4 and 8}
The Northern Kingdom of Israel, after its split with Judah had set up sanctuaries in opposition to the
temple on Mount Zion in Jerusalem (1 Kings 12: 26-33); the only place in the Holy Land where valid
sacrifice could be offered. By doing this the kingdom showed itself an enemy of God, and now God is
about to show himself an enemy to his sinful people.
Mourning meadows/withering Carmel. The text implies that God’s judgment of Israel has already
begun. The beginning of this judgment is a drought. This was one of the curses threatened by God if his
people ever forgot him or turned to false worship (see Deut 28:20-24).
Carmel is a reference to Mount Carmel. The name means “the garden with fruit tree,” a reference to the
extraordinary fertility of the mountain which, due to its geographical location receives more rainfall
than most other areas in the Holy Land. A withering Carmel would be a bad drought indeed. The
prophet Nahum 1:4 and Isaiah 33:9 also see the drying up of Carmel as a sign of God’s anger.
Carmel was already famous to the people of the Northern Kingdom. During the time of Elijah,
God gave power to the prophet to bring drought upon the land of Israel for three years because of its
idolatry (they were worshipping Baal). This situation came to an end when Elijah challenged 450
prophets of Baal to a duel on Mount Carmel. With his victory over them, the rain returned to Israel and
the first sign of the coming rain was spotted atop Carmel. (see 1 Kings 18)
1:3-5 Oracle against Damascus.
Thus says the Lord: For the three trangressions of Damscus, and for four, I will not call it back;
for they have threshed Gilead with threshing sleds of iron, I will send fire upon the house of
Hazael it shall eat up the strongholds of Ben-Hadad. I will break the bar of Damascus, cut off
those who dwell in the valley of Aven, along with him who holds the scepter in Beth-Eden; and
the people of Aram shall go as captives into Kir, says the Lord.
The first oracle is against Syria, which was also named Aram, and, Damascus, which was its capitol.
Thus says the Lord: Is typical of prophetic speech. The prophet is speaking on God’s authority, not
his own.
For three trangressions…and for four: These words form part of all the oracles. They express
indefiniteness, a lack of any limit. Transgression is, in the literal Hebrew, rebellion. The word implies
a rebellion against some authority (1 Kings 12:10; 2 Kings 1:1). The implication here is that the
authority rebelled against is God. Although the pagan nations did not have the Law as the Chosen
People did, they still had the moral authority of their God-given conscience.
Damascus: The capitol of Aram, which was also called Syria;
I will not call it back: “it” has no referrent in the Hebrew but clearly God’s punishment is what will
not be called back. God’s patience is at an end. The looming threat throughout the book is the Assyrian
They have threshed Gilead with threshing sleds of iron: Threshing sleds were heavy wooden
platforms which had small iron spikes on the bottom of them. These were dragged over harvested grain
to crush it in order to seperate the kernels from the chaff. While this crime of Damascus is often
interpreted literally, it should be understood that this image was a common metaphor for wholesale
military destruction.
Gilead refers to Israellite territory east of the sea of Galilee (called Kinneret in the OT) and the Jordan
River. This area was often subject to invasion by Aram. Numerous battles between Aram and Israel
took place in the 9th century BC for control of the region and Israel lost control of part of it. It was
during one of these battles, near the city of Ramoth-Gilead that King Ahab of Israel was killed (see 1
Kings 22). Only around the time of Amos was Israel able to assert its full control over the region. The
people would see the punishment of Aram as well justified.
I shall send fire upon the house of Hazael, and it shall eat up the strongholds of Ben-Hadad: The
kingdom and the short lived dynasty of Hazael will succumb to military attack.
Hazael was an officer of King Ben-Hadad (not the one Amos mentions). He was suppossed to be
annointed by Elijah as king of Aram (see 1 Kings 19:15), whether this happened or not is unclear.
Later, he was sent to Elisha by Ben-Hadad to inquire if he (Beh-Hadad) would recover from an illness.
At this time Elisha predicts the trouble Hazael will bring upon Israel (see 2 Kings 2:8). Upon his return
to Aram Hazael murdered Ben-Hadad and ascended the throne. For this reason, Assyrian records refer
to him as “son of a nobody”, for he had no royal blood in him. He warred unsuccessfully against
Shalmaneser III of Assyria in 841 and 837 BC. He also warred against Jehoahaz of Israel and
conquered the territory around Ramoth -Gilead (see 2 Kings 10:32). This left Jehoahaz weakened (see
2 Kings 13:7). He conquered the Philistine city of Gath and then laid siege to Jerusalem, the capitol of
Judah which paid him a heavy tribute to end the siege (see 2 Kings 12:17-18). He was succeeded to the
throne by his son Ben-Hadad (the one Amos does mention).
I will break the bar of Damascus: The heavily fortified gates of the city will be breached by the
I will cut off those who dwell in the valley of Aven: The word Aven means sin or evil power. It is a
contemptous reference to the Beqa Valley which was part of Aram/Syria at that time. (It now sits on
the border between Lebanon and Syria). The place will be cut off; this is perhaps a reference to their no
longer being able to trade along the Mediterranean costal routes because their access to it has been cut
off. More likely, in light of the rest of the text, it refers to exile.
along with him who holds the scepter at Beth-Eden; and the people of Aram shall go as captives
into Kir:
Ben-Hadad, the son of Hazael is the one who holds the scepter. Beth-Eden means “house of
pleasure” and is a contemptous word-play on the name of a city “Bit Adini”. This city was located on
the banks of the Euphrates River, about 200 miles northeast of Damascus. It would be, in the event of
an Assyrian invasion, the first target to be attacked. It was a strong, fortified city and therefore a key for
the maintaining of the kingdom of Aram. Beh-Hadad is said to hold the scepter from this city,
meaning his whole kingdom and rule was dependent on it. The prophet is implying that it will fall and,
as a result, the king and the people will go as captives to Kir. There is evidence to suggest that at the
time of Amos’ ministry, Assyria had already gained control of Beth-Eden (Bit Adini). The location of
Kir is disputed, many think it’s a reference to an area east of Babylon, on the northeast shore of the
Persian gulf. According to Amos 9:7, the people of Aram were orignally from Kir and had been
transplanted to Syria by the goodnes of God. The comparison to the Chosen People in that passage
suggests that the people of Aram had once ben slaves, like God’s people. Into slavery they will return.


For info on Philistia click here. Be sure to click on the map to enlarge.
The covenant of brotherhood is a reference to the pact both David and Solomon had with King Hiram
of Tyre, which established a “brotherhood” among them. Hiram supplied both men and materials to
David for the building of his palace (2 Sam 5:11-12). He later supplied men and materials to Solomon
for the building of the Jerusalem Temple (1 Kings 5:15-32). In both these passages the Biblical
language of covenant (love, brother) is used. During the time of king Jehu of Israel Tyre failed to
support Israel in its troubles with Aram. Tyre is said to have delivered up a whole people to Edom
inasmuch as their failure to help Israel led to the exile of many Israelites from Gilead by Aram. For
more on Tyre click here.
He pursued his brother with the sword: According to the book of Genesis, Esau was the father of the
Edomites. He was also the elder twin brother of Jacob, (also called Israel) who is the father of the
twelve tribes. In Genesis 27:27:39-40, Isaac, the father of the twins, prophesied that Esau would live by
the sword, be subject to his younger brother, but eventually free himself. Israel gained control over
Edom during the reign of David and held onto that control till the time of Jehoram (2 Kings 8:20-22).
Archaeologist have discovered a whole string of forts on the border between Edom and the holy land,
suggesting tht conflict between the brother-peoples was not rare.
he cast off all pity: A poor translation. The Hebrew phrase refers to the killing of women: “he
destroyed wombs.”
his anger tore perpetually: The Hebrew word for “tore” refers to a lion eating, emphasising the
bitterness of the anger.
he kept his wrath forever: Literally, “his wrath watched forever.” Like a lion which, when guarding
its kill will attack at the slightest provocation.
For more on Edom click here.
For more on Ammon click here.
For info on Moab click here.
Judah has been led astray by lies, a common biblical term for idol.
Given the length of the oracle against Israel I will treat of it in another post.
Having spoke judgement oracles against seven nations, including Judah, the prophet begins his eighth
and longest oracle -against Israel itself.
Vs 6. Thus says the Lord: For the three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not call it
back; because for silver they have sold the righteous, and for a pair of sandals the destitute.
As we have seen already, transgression means deliberate rebellion against God. In Israel’s case,
however, the trangression is more deplorable than it was with the pagan nations because it, unlike those
nations, was privileged with the law, the revealed will of God (see Deut 4:5-8). Judah too, in a short,
two sentence statement, was condemned for its infidelity to the law, but Amos sees Israel’s sins as
much worse.
In the first reason given for the condemnation, the operative words are the righteous and the destitute,
not “silver” or “sandals”. The sin of Israel, its rebellion against the revealed will of God, is injustice
toward men which manifests itself in greed. This brings to mind a famous Biblical text:
He (Jesus) said to him: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, with your
whole soul, and with your whole mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is
like it: you mst love your neighbor as yourself. The whole of the law and of the prophets rests on
these two commands. (see Mt 22:34-40. Also Lev 19:18)
As will be seen later, the righteous are sold and the needy are cheated by bribery in the law courts.
Vs 7 They lust for the very dust of the land that has settled on the head of the poor. They pervert the
way of the poor; a man and his father go to the same servant, so as to profane my holy name.
Their greed, the manifestation of their unrighteousness, shows itself as greed for land. This greed is
here described as so intense that it is a lusting after the very dust of the land that has settled on the poor
man’s head!
they pervert the way of the poor. The Hebrew word for way is derek, like its Greek counterpart
hodos, it refers literally to a path or road (highway, freeway, pathway). In the Bible, both words are
used to denote moral activity (see psalm 1). The sense here could be that the action of the unrighteous
leads the poor man into unrighteousness. Another possible interpretation is that the word poor is being
used here in the sense of meek or humble. They pervert the way of the meek would then mean that
they have left the right road, the right course of moral activity. They no longer walk the road of the
humble. (Again, see the metaphor of “the way” in psalm 1).
A man and his father go into the same servant: The law in Leviticus 18:8 and 20:11-12 forbid a
father and son from having sexual relations with the same woman. Such an act was considered a form
of incest and a gross perversion of the moral order, thus a profaning of the holy name of God.
The word I translated as servant could also be translated as prositute. But given the econmic context of
vss 6-8 I think servant is better. A man could put his daughter into servitude to pay off a debt, alleviate
a desperate financial situation, or simply because he could not take proper care of her. The law
provided protection for such women (see Exodus 21:7-11). It may be that the wealthy men of Isarel
were cheating and taking advantage of the poor to gain their daughters as “sexual” servants. (This is the
view of Marvin Sweeney in THE TWELVE PROPHETS, Vol. 1).
Vs 8 And on garments taken in pledge they stretch themselves out beside every altar, and they
drink the wine of the condemned in the place of their gods.
If a person owed a debt certain of his garments could be taken in pledge ((Ex 22:25-26), but these had
to be returned to him at night for humanitarian reasons. According to Deuteronomy 24:12-13, a man
who took anothers garment as a debt pledge was forbidden to sleep on it since it had to be returned to
the debtor for him to sleep in. Apparently, Amos is accusing the wealthy of not breaking the law of
Deuteronomy. However, not simplu content to break this law, they compound it by drinking the wine
of the condmned. Condmned here means those who have had a legal judgement go against them.
Fines could be paid with agricultural commodities. As we have already noted, the courts in Israel were
perverted by bribes. The prophet is here condemning people for enjoying ill-gotten wine on ill-gotten
garments. Worse still, they are enjoying these things beside every altar in the place of their gods.
They enjoy the fruits of their perversion of justice beside the altars of the “high places” so often
condemned by the prophets (see Hosea 10:8; Amos 7:9).


Vs9 Yet it was I who destroyed the Amorites before them, who were as high as the heights of the
cedars, and who were as strong as the oaks; I destroyed the fruit that was above and the roots
that were beneath.
The opening of verse 9 is emphatic. It highlights the marked contrast between what God has done for
Israel and how they have responded.
Amorites refers to a Semetic speaking people who migrated into the Holy Land, Syria, and
Mesopotamia (Iraq) early in the second millenium BC. The Bible identifies them , along with
Canaanites and Hittites, as possessing the Holy Land before the advent of the twelve tribes. The Bible
presents the Amorites as idolaters and as exceedingly sinful and this is given as the reason for God’s
action against them (see Leviticus 18:24-30).
Their height is compared to that of the cedar tree and their strength is compared to that of an oak. In
the bible, trees are often used as a symbol of might, but also of pride and arrogance (see Ezekiel 31;
Isaiah 2:13; and my notes on Isaiah 2:13-16). The Amorites were too strong and powerful for the
People of God to defeat without God’s help (see Numbers 13:25-14:45). For the sake of his people God
destroyed the tree-like Amorites completely: their fruit above and their root beneath.
Vs 10 And it was I who brought you up from the land of Egypt, and who led you in the
wilderness for forty years, so that you might take possession of the land of the amorites.
The forty years in the wilderness was a result of the people’s lack of trust in God, manifested in their
refusal to trust that he could conqueor the Amorites (see the Numbers link above). Yet, although God
did punish the people for this sin he did not reject them, he thus manifested both his justice and his
mercy. Even in the midst of their forty year punishment God took care of them (Deut 8:1-5). The
purpose of all they experienced those forty years was so that they might take possession of the land.
Vs 11 From among your sons I raised up prophets; and from among your young men (I raised
up) Nazarites. Is this not so, O sons of Israel? says the Lord.
Once the people had come into the Holy Land God raised up prophets for them, to ensure that they
stayed on the straight and narrow in their relations with him, for a prime duty of the prophet was to
oversee the right worship of God and the eradication of idolatry (Deut 18:9-22).
Nazarites The law regarding Nazarites can be found in Numbers 6:1-7. The exact significance of
Nazarites is unknown. The term means “dedicated”, this may imply that they were meant to be
examples to the people of holiness and commitment to God since things were made holy when they
were dedicated to the service of the Lord.
Vs 12 But you caused the Nazarites to drink wine, and demanded of the prophet: “Do not
They probably find commitment to the Lord a burden on their own guilty consciences, and so they
force the Nazarite to abandon his commitment in order to feel better about themselves. Some things
never change. For the same reason, prophets calling for right morality and a commitment to God are
silenced. “Why should I listen to a celibate in Rome talk about sex and marriage?” “Don’t impose your
morality on me!” Like I said, some things never change.
Vs 13 Behold, I will press down upon you as sheaves press down upon a cart.
Having found God’s moral will a burden, the people will now be burdened by the the Lord’s
punishment, which will weigh upon them like produce in an overloaded cart.
Vs 14 Flight will perish from the fleet, the strong will not hold onto his strengh, and the mighty
one will not deliver himself.
Vs 15 The skilled bowman will not stand, and the fleet of foot shall not deliver himself, and the
one who rides a horse shall not save his life.
Vs 16 The stoutest heart among the mighty shall run away naked on that day, says the Lord.
The self-reliant, the “free moral agents”, will not be so fast, strong, or mighty, to save themselves
from God’s wrath (Vs 14). This wrath will apparently manifest it self in the form of an invading army
(Vss 15-16); the Assyrians, who would destroy the Northern Kingdom in 722 BC.

Here begins another major section of the Prophet’s Book (3:1-4:13). It is in the form of a sermon which
has combined many elements. The basic point of the sermon is that punishment is coming necessarily,
and this necessity is due to Israel’s sins. It opens with a “call to attention” formula typical of the
prophetic literature.
AMOS 3:1-2
1. Hear this word that the Lord has spoken concerning you, O sons of Israel, concerning the
whole family which I brought up out of the land of Egypt:
2. “Only you have I known among all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for
your iniquities.”
“Hear this word” is a common biblical address meant to get an audience’s attention. It is found at the
beginning of hymns of praise (Judges 5:3), it (or a similar formula) is also used in wisdom teaching
(Prov 7:1, 24), and in military and political negotiations as well (2 Kings 18:28-29). But it was very
common in prophetic speeches, especially those taking the form of a warning (Hosea 4:1; Isaiah 1:10;
Ezekiel 6:3).
The word that the Lord has spoken concerning Israel is quoted beginning in verse 2: “only you
have I known among all the families of the earth; therefore (i.e. for this reason, because of this) I
will punish you for your iniquities.”
God chose to know Israel in a way not enjoyed by the other peoples of the world. Know, as used in
Scripture, implies a special, intimate relationship of experience (see Gen 4:1; Jer1:5).
The wording of verses 1 and 2 would have called to the people’s minds the covenant of Moses which
was itself a partial fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (also called Israel).
God had chosen Abraham so that in his descendents “all the families of the earth might find blessing
(see Gen 12:3; 18:18;). A promise repeated after the near sacrifice of Isaac (Gen 22:18), and repeated
again to Jacob (Israel) in Gnesis 28:10-15.
In Exodus 19, as God prepares to make his covenant with the people under Moses, he says to Moses:
“Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: You have seen what I did to
the Egyptians, and how I bore you up on eagle’s wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if
you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all the
peoples; for all the earth is mine.” (Ex 19:3-5, RSV). And as he makes the covenant he begins with
these words: “I am the Lord, your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt.”
The words then of Amos 3:1-2 would have reminded the people of their founding traditions and their
privileges as the Chosen People. A privilege Paul describes memorably: “They are Israelites; theirs the
adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; theirs the
patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, is the Messiah.” (Rom 9:4-5, NAB). But with
privilege and blessing comes responsibilities (see Luke 12:48) which the people had not fulfilled:
Therefore, God says in Amos 3:2, I will punish you for your iniquities. In punishing the people God
is showing himself to be what he was, the father of Israel, His firstborn son (Exodus 4:22-23); “for
whom the Lord loves he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges.” (see Hebrews

Amos 3:3-8
After calling the people to attention and announcing that punishment is coming for their failure to live
as God’s covenanted children, God, through the prophet, asks a series of rhetorical questions which are
meant to justify the action God is taking. Every effect [in this case, God’s punishment] has a cause (vss
3-6). Then a reference is made to prophecy (vss 7-8).
3. Do two go about together unless they belong together?
The answer is quite obviously no. A lamb and a lion do not go about together. In Amos’ day people of
differing social classes or sexes did not associate together unless there was some cause for them to do
4. Does a lion ROAR in the forest even though he is without prey. Does a young lion GIVE OUT
HISA VOICE from his habitation if he has caught nothing?
I know nothing of such things but recall that Amos was a herdsman from the wilderness of Tekoa, he
would certainly know that a lion’s roar is caused by its capture of prey. Notice that this verse calls to
mind the keynote verse of the Book of Amos:
“the Lord ROARS from Zion GIVES OUT HIS VOICE from Jerusalem…the height of Carmel
withers” (Amos 1:2). The importance of this will be seen later. [note that the CAPITALIZED words
refers to the sound/voice of God/lion; and the italicised words refer to where God/ a lion dwells]
5. Does a bird fall victim to a snare upon the earth if their is no bait to lure it? Does a snare
spring up from the ground if there is no prey to capture?
Again, the answer is no; effects have there causes.
6. Does a trumpet sound in a city and the people do not tremble? Does affliction come upon a city
and the Lord has not been the cause of it?
Trumpet is a reference to the shofar, the rams horn that was blown to signal the approach of an enemy.
Its sound would definitely cause the people to tremble.
God had warned the people as they were about to enter the promised land that if they refused to obey
his covenant he would punish them by causing foreign armies to invade their land and sack their cities
(see Deut 28:49-52).
Notice the progression of these verses. Verse 3 asked, very generically, “do two walk together?” The
question was so vague that it could refer to animals or people. Verse 4 focused on the theme of animals
against animals; a lion roars because it has captured its prey. Verse 5 focuses on the theme of man
against animals, for only men lay snares. Verse 6a focuses upon the theme of men against men, for
only men war with men. verse 6b focuses upon the theme of God against men; implicitly, the focus is
upon his relationship with his people. Every effect in the world has its cause.
Vs 7 Certainly the Lord God does nothing without revealing his plans to his servants the
In order to keep the people on the straight and narrow, and to ensure that they did not forget him and
commit idolatry, God had, through Moses, promised the people that he would raise up prophets to
guide and instruct them (see Deut 18:9-22). Recall, however, that the people of the Northern Kingdom
had rejected the prophets sent to them (see Amos 2:12). The people therefore are without excuse: “for
if any man will not listen to my words which the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will make him
answer for it.” (Deut 18:19).
Vs 8 A lion has roared-who does not fear? The Lord God has spoken-who does not prophecy?
The reference to a lion roaring recalls the keynote verse in 1:2. There we saw that God, the shepherd of
his flock, Israel, had become their worst nightmare. Like a lion with its prey he had roared (see 3:4) and
there was drought upon the land. Not only was he roaring through natural calamities, but also through
his prophets-who will not be afraid? As will be seen in 4:6-11, the people were apparently not afraid.
As will be seen in Amos 7:12-13, they will seek to silence the prophecies of Amos, but to no avail.

A prophetic threat proclaimed 3:9-12

Vs 9 Proclaim this in the strongholds of Ashdod, likewise in the strongholds of the land of Egypt,
saying: “gather yourselves upon the mountain of Samaria, witness the great upheavals within
her, and the oppression in the midst of her.”
Vs 10 For they do not know how to do what is right, says the Lord, treasuring in their
strongholds extortion and theft.
During the reign of Omri, Samaria became the capitol of the Northern Kingdom, as such it could stand
as a name for the entire kingdom, and such is the case here. As we have seen, the leaders of Israelite
society had become corrupt, greedy, and oppressive towards the poor (2:6-8). Also, they had rejected
the prophets and the nazarites (2:11-12), no doubt because these people troubled their already guilty
God tells the prophet to proclaim to the pagan stronghold (i.e. fortified city) of Ashdod and to the
strongholds in the pagan nation of Egypt that they are to gather and witness the sins which
Samaria/Israel has stored up in her strongholds.
There is intense irony here. In telling the prophet to “Proclaim” something to the pagans God uses the
Hebrew word shama (shaw-mah) in what is known as its hiphil form in which it means to tell or
proclaim something. This same word, in its Qal form means to listen or hear. In this later form the word
was spoken everyday by devout Jews in their morning prayer known as the shema:
“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your
God, with all your heart, and all your soul, and with all your strength. Take these words to heart
which I enjoin on you today. Drill them into your children. Speak of them at home and when
abroad, whether you are busy or at rest…” (Deut 6:4-7)
By “hearing the statutes and decrees” of the Lord the people were to give evidence of their “wisdom
and intelligence to the nations” (see Deut 4:1-8); but this they have not done. As a result, pagan
nations are called upon to witness the sins in Israel. The implication is that Israel has become as bad as,
if not worse than, the pagans.
Vs 11 Therefore, thus says the Lord, an enemy shall encompass your land, and shall take from
you your strength, and plunder your stronholds.
A generation after the preaching of Amos this prophetic warning would become reality when, in 722
BC, Assyria conquered the Northern Kingdom and sent the people into exile. Their cities, land, and the
ill-gotten booty they “treasured in their strongholds” (vs 10) would be given over to an enemy, just as
the prophet Moses had warned them (see Deut 28). The reference to lost strength repeats a warning
from 2:14.
Vs 12 Thus says the Lord: As a shepherd grabs from the lion’s mouth two legs, or a portion of an
ear, so shall the sons of Israel be saved with a corner of a couch, or a portion of a bed.
Again we see the image of the lion. A shepherd who wrestles over a sheep with a lion who has taken it
as prey is likely to come away with very little for his efforts. Against the Assyrian menace a remnant of
the people of Israel will survive, but without their pampered luxury symbolized by the couch and bed.
Their “good life” extorted from the poor will come to an end. (Note: in Assyrian art the king, and
sometimes his army, is symbolized by a lion).
Vs 13 Here this and bear testimony against the house of Jacob, says the Lord God, the God of
Vs 14 For on the day I bring punishment upon Israel for his crimes I will also bring punishment
upon the altars of Bethel, the horns of the altar I will cut off so that they fall to the ground.
Vs 15 The winter-house and the summer-house I will smite; and the ivory-houses shall perish,
and their many houses shall be brought to an end, says the Lord.
It is uncertain to me whether God calls upon the prophet to bear witness in vs 13 or if it is Ashdod and
Egypt who are being spoken to (see vs 9). The term House of Jacob could refer to the entire chosen
people but here it must certainly refers to the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom. This is borne out in
vs 14 which speaks of the destruction of the altars at Bethel, which was in the Northern Kingdom.
Bethel was a sacred spot in Israel. Jacob himself, the father of the twelve tribes (see Gen 30-31)
founded a sanctuary there (Gen 28). It was also at Bethel (also called Paddanaram) that God renewed
the covenant promise he had originally made to Abraham (Gen 35:1-15). But God had chosen
Jerusalem as the place for his temple to the exclusion of all other places; therefore, when Jeroboam I,
the first king of the new Northern Kingdom, established a shrine at Bethel, it was seen as an
abomination (see 1 kings 12:26-13:3). Worse, the altar was in the shape of a bull, the figure of an
Egyptian deity. By the time of Amos’ preaching (circa 760 BC), the “sin of Jeroboam,” as it was called,
had been in existence for about a century and a half. Bethel and its altars would indeed be destroyed.
This in fact took place in 722 BC.
The wealthy people of Israel lived luxurious lives. In the summer they stayed their homes in Israel.
Archaeology tells us that the homes of the wealthy during the time of Amos were magnificent, with the
walls and floors being inlaid with ivory. Not content with these, they also had winter homes to the
south, in the kingdom of Judah, where the weather during the winter months was somewhat milder.
These too will be destroyed

The prophet continues his prophetic sermon detailing the punishment to be brought upon Israel.
Amos 4:1-3
Vs 1 Hear this word, you cows of Bashan who dwell on the mount of Samaria, who press upon
the poor, weigh down heavily on the needy, and who say to your husbands: “Bring, that we may
The over-wealthy, over-fed, over-pampered women of Israel (i.e. the Mount of Samaria) are her
compared contemptuously to the cows of Bashan. Bashan is a reference to the plains of Bashan
located in the trans-Jordan region east of the Sea of Galilee, on the banks of the Yarmuk River. The
area today known as the Golan Heights. This rich, fertile plain was famous for its well fed cattle (see
Deut 32:14; Psalm 22:13).
Recall that in the initial indictment of Israel by Amos (2:6-16), the nation was condemned because
“they trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth” (2:7 RSV); kind of like cattle on a
stampede. Here the women of Samaria are accussed of pressing and weighing down on the needy; a
similar image. Apparently, the opulent lifestyle they demand of their husbands has helped encourage
the mistreatment of the poor, and for this they are condemned. They demand that drink be brought to
them, reminding us of the wine extorted from the poor as legal penalties levied by unjust courts (see
Vss 2-3 The Lord has sworn by his holiness, “Behold, days are coming upon you when you will be
taken away with hooks, the very last of you with fish hooks. Out through the breached walls you
shall go straightaway and you will be cast onto the dung-hill,” says the Lord.
The nation will face a military invasion (2:14-16) which will lead to the the capture of the capitol of
Israel, Samaria, when its fortified walls are breached by the enemy (obviously Assyria). Rings were
sometimes put into the noses of animals as part of their domestication, for it made them easier to
control. A hook on a pole or rope would be inserted into the ring in order to lead the animal around (see
Job 40:25-26). Ancient Assyrian art depicts people captured by Shalamanezer III being roped together
and led away in single file lines. For more on the use of rings and hooks in the treatment of prisoners
click here.
Amos 4:4-5 A reproach for hypocritical worship
Vs 4 “Come to Bethel, and transgress; come to Gilgal, and multiply your transgressions; bring
your sacrifices morning after morning, bring your tithes every third day;
Vs 5 offer a thanksgiving sacrifice of that which is leavened, announce your free-will offrings,
make them public: For this you love to do, O people Israel,” says the Lord God.
God is here, through his prophet, engaging in some sarcasm. The words are in the form of typical
priestly instruction concerning the Torah. The priests were supposed to teach and exhort the people to
worship God rightly. God, apparently imitating the Northern preists, exhorts the people to false
worship. The sarcasm is intended to highlight the sin being committed under the guise of true worship.
Morning sacrifices were to be offered at the temple in Jerusalem; not the shrines of Bethel and Gilgal.
The very fact that the people are offering these sacrifices anywhere other than the Jerusalem temple is
itself a sin, no matter how well intended they might have been.
Bring your tithes every third day. The Jews were expected to pay an annual (once a year) tithe for the
upkeep of the temple and another tithe every three years for the good of the poor, widows, and orphans.
We saw in Chapter 2 that the people had no concern for the poor and destitute. The tithes “every third
day” is probably more of a sarcsam than a fact. You can be meticulous about paying your tithes, you
can even pay more than was required, but if it is done out of hypocrisy it will do you no good.
Some would interpret these words as a condemnation of ritual worship, but nothing could be further
from the truth. No where do the prophets condemn rituals which were ordered by God himself. Rather,
they often condemn formalism, a going thru the motion of ritual for hypocritical purposes.
Thanksgiving sacrifices were supposed to be made known and celebrated publicly, for what was being
celebrated was God’s blessing upon an individual (see Psalm 22:23-32 and Psalm 116:17-19). Again,
however, such things were not suppossed to be for self-aggrandisment.
The sarcastic command to come to Bethel, and transgress; come to Gilgal, and multiply your
transgressions is followed, in verses 6-11 by a series of critiques. God will detail a number of his
punishments he brought upon Israel but which went unheeded by the people.
Vs 6 “I gave you cleaness of teeth in all your cities, and lack of bread in all your places, yet you
did not return to me,” says the Lord.
Vs 7 “And I also witheld the rain from you when you were yet three months from the harvest; I
sent rain upon one city, and sent no rain upon another city, one field would be rained upon, and
the field on which it did not rain withered;
Vs 8 So two or three cities wandered to one city to drink water, and were not satisfied; yet you
did not return to me,” says the Lord
Vs 9 “I smote you with blight and mildew; I laid waste your gardens and your vineyards; your fig
trees and olive trees the locusts devoured; yet you did not return to me,” says the Lord.
Vs 10 “I sent among you a pestillence after the manner of Egypt; I slew your young me with the
sword; I carried away your horses; I made the stench of your camp go up into your nostrils; yet
you did not return to me,” says the Lord.
Vs 11 “I overthrew some of you as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomor’rah, and you were as
a brand plucked out of the burning; Yet you did not return to me, ” says the Lord. (Revised
Standard Version)
These verses, in the form of a litany (i.e. the repeated “yet you did not return to me”) continue the
sarcasm begun in verse 4. The people think-or worse, pretend- to be seeking God by “coming” to Gigal
and Bethel, but in fact, for all their religiousity, they have not returned to the Lord (See Hosea :1-11)
When God made his covenant with his people, he had warned them not to forget him or worship falsely
(Exodus 23:23-26). To this the people agreed (Exodus 24:3). But God, thru Moses also made it clear
that the people would sin against him and be punished by things like drought, lack of food, war,
pestilence and locust plagues (See Deuteronomy 28-29; and the Song of Moses in Deut 32). God also
promised, however that if they sincerely repented they would once again enjoy his favor (See
Deuteronomy 30).
verse 11 makes reference to the overthrow of Sodom and Gomor’rah. These two cities are the
quitessential symbols of evil and of God’s subsequent punishment. Genesis 19 says that God
overthrew these cities; the same word used by Amos in this verse. It means literally “to turn upside
down” and refers obviously to an earthquake (see Amos 1:1). The image of a brand plucked from the
fire suggests that God showed some mercy towards the unrepentant- but even this did not move them
to repent; so God says:
Vs 12“So now I will deal with you in my own way, O Israel! and since I will deal thus with you,
prepare to meet your God, O Israel:
Vs 13 Him who formed the mountains and created the winds, and declares to man his thoughts;
who made the dawn and the darkness, and strides upon the heights fo the earth: the Lord, the
God of Hosts by name.” (New American Bible)
Having punished them in the past, he will do so again.
The words prepare to meet your God caps the irony and sarcasm begun in verse 4. the people come to
Gilgal and Bethel and worship God falsely. This is not a return to God. Having failed to come and meet
the merciful God of the covenant as repentant sinners they must now prepare to meet the God of
covenant Justice.
One final note. The Hebrew word translated as prepare is used elsewhere in the Bible for the
preparation of sacrifice (Ezra 3:3); and the verb translated as to meet is often used in reference to
prayer (often being translated as “call upon” or “invoke”. See Gen 12:8; Psalm 79:6; Jeremiah 10:25).
The people had sought God thru illegitimate sacrifice and prayer and now they are going to meet him;
but not in the way they expected or wanted.

Building upon the sarcastic and ironic statements of chapter 4:4-14, a new section of Amos opens in
5:1-6:14. We will examine the section in three major blocks: 5:1-15 (the subject of this current post);
5:16-27; and 6:1-14.
Basically, the text calls upon the people to seek God rather than the temples at Bethel and Gilgal. This
stands in Marked contrast to the 4 where the people were told come to Gilgal and sin; to Bethel and sin
even more. The Point there was that their false and formalistic worship was not a true “seeking after”
Amos, 5:1-5 from The holy Bible, Revised Standard version
1: Hear this word which I take up over you in lamentation, O house of Israel: 2: “Fallen, no more to
rise, is the virgin Israel; forsaken on her land, with none to raise her up.” 3: For thus says the Lord
GOD: “The city that went forth a thousand shall have a hundred left, and that which went forth a
hundred shall have ten left to the house of Israel.” 4: For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel:
“Seek me and live; 5: but do not seek Bethel, and do not enter into Gilgal or cross over to Beer-sheba;
for Gilgal shall surely go into exile, and Bethel shall come to nought.”
Vs 1 Hear is, as we have seen before, prophetic call to attention. What the people are called to attend to
is the impending doom of their kingdom. This doom is announced in the form of lamentation; a funeral
dirge or death song which is given in vs 2.
Vs 2 Consists of the actual lamentation announced in the previous verse. It is, in the Hebrew text,
written in the poetic “Qinah” meter, a term derived from the Hebrew word for lamentation. In other
words, in verse 2 we are to understand that the prophet is singing the words: Fallen, no more to rise, is
the virgin Israel; forsaken on her land, with none to raise her up.
The lamentation is recorded in the present tense as if the state of affairs it concerns has already taken
place. In fact, the event is still future, as verses 3-5 make clear. The present tense serves a two-fold
purpose; (1) it highlights its function as a prediction and (2) it makes clear that what is predicted will
come to pass. The Northern Kingdom, virgin Israel will indeed fall, the only recourse the people have
in the face of this impending calamnity is repentance, returning to the Lord (see vss 5-6), which
includes living righteously (vss 14-15). This alone however will not save the Northern Kingdom, for
the kingdom is marked for destruction as a political/religious entity. As the prophet will make clear
later, the people must not only return to the right worship of God, but they must also once again subject
themselves to the leadship of the Davidic kings of Judah (see 9:8b-15).
Vs 3 For thus says the Lord “The city that went forth a thousand shall have a hundred left, and
that which went forth a hundred shall have ten left to the house of
Notice the combination of past and future tenses here. What is being predicted will surely happen.
For This word introduces the reason for the lamentation and its meaning. Virgin Israel will fall and be
forsaken as the result of a terrible military defeat (see 2:13-16). Her Armies will literally be decimated.
A thousand will be reduced to a hundred; a hundred will be reduced to ten. The ancient Jewish military
was arrainged in companies of tens, hundres, thousands.
Vs 4 For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel: “Seek me and live.
This is the only valid solution to their impending predicament.
Vs 5 but do not seek Bethel, and do not enter into Gilgal or cross over to Beer-sheba; for Gilgal shall
surely go into exile, and Bethel shall come to nought. (see 3:14-15)
All three of these sites loom large in the history of the patriarchs who set up shrines and memorials to
God at them. But during the time of David and Solomon God had chosen to dwell in Jerusalem and
receive sacrifice there. Turning these other sites into rival places of sacrificial worship was an offense
against God. Compounding this was the fact that the worship taking place was tainted with paganism.
These places would indeed be destroyed and the people taken into exile by the Assyrian Empire in 722
6: Seek the LORD and live, lest he break out like fire in the
house of Joseph, and it devour, with none to quench it for Bethel,
7: O you who turn justice to wormwood, and cast down righteousness to the earth!
He who made the Plei’ades and Orion, and turns deep darkness into the
morning, and darkens the day into night, who calls for the waters of
the sea, and pours them out upon the surface of the earth, the LORD is
his name,
9: who makes destruction flash forth against the strong, so that destruction comes upon the fortress .
Vs 6 The beginning of the verse basically repeats the call to seek God made in vs 4. The rest of the
verse again reiterates the impending doom of the Kingdom by military defeat. Notice that the language
is similar to what was found in the oracles of 1:3-25. In those oracles we saw that a number of nations,
including Judah, and/or their cities were threatened with fire. In the oracle made against the Northern
Kingdom of Israel in 2:6-16 no such threat is given. Why was it delayed till here?
Vs 7 reintroduces the sins against righteousness and justice which are manifested in mistreatment of the
poor. Wormwood is a small bush which lies close to the ground and has an extremely bitter taste to it.
The people have made Justice and righteousness bitter and insignificant, like the wormwood plant.
Vs 8-9 are a liturgical acclaimation similar to the one found in 4:13. As the true source of all that is
made and happens in creation God cannot be mocked; for as he is the source of creation, he is also the
source of righteousness and justice among men. He who has the power to control creation certainly has
the power to bring judgement against those who turn justice into wormwood.
Vs 10 They hate him who reproves in the gate, and they abhor him who speaks the truth.
Legal cases were heard and legal decisions were made in public, usually at the city gate. As we saw in
2:6-8 the wealthy were corrupting the legal system in order to cheat the poor. A Judges who reproves
honestly, or a witness who speaks truthfully are hated by such people.
Vs 11: Therefore because you trample upon the poor and take from
him exactions of wheat, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you
shall not dwell in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you
shall not drink their wine.
The wealthy in the kingdom who have increased their abundance wrongly will not enjoy the fruits of
their wrongdoing (see 3:15 and 4:9).
Vs 12 For I know how many are your transgressions, and how great are your sins–you who afflict the
righteous, who take a bribe and turn aside the needy at the gate.
As verses 7-10 made clear, God is not ignorant of what is taking place, it is precisely his knowledge of
what is happening which motivates the coming punishment.
Vs 13 Therefore he who is prudent will keep silent in such a time; for it is an evil time.
The prudent man will remain silent concerning the evil being done because things have become so evil.
Vs 14 Seek good, and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you,
as you have said.
The Hebrew word used for seek is dirsu, the root of which is often used to denote seeking God thru
prophetic oracles or worship. One can onlu seek good and worship according to God’s will which was
manifested and made known thru the gift of prophecy (see Deut 18:9-20). Though the people were
claiming God was with them their actions showed otherwise.
Vs 15 Hate evil, love good, and establish justice at the gate; it may be that the Lord, tho God of hosts,
will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.
Ultimately, one can only have a right relationship with God if one has a right relationship with his
fellow humans. If the wealthy and pwerful want to escape the coming wrath they have to begin acting
in an upright manner and not, for example, continue to corrupt the courts.
AMOS 5:16-27
This current post is the second of three posts on Amos 5:1-6:14. Verses 16 and 17 provide a transition
from the previous verses, (1-15) into the second major part of this broader section. They return to the
theme of lamentation with which 5:1-15 began. They are to be understood as a further warning of what
is coming and thus give added incentive to the people to repent, for as verse 15 put it: it may be that the
Lord, the god of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.
Vs 16 Therefore, thus speaks the Lord, the God of hosts, the Lord: “In all the market-places their shall
be wailing; on every street they shall say ‘Alas! Alas!’ The husbandmen shall be called upon to mourn,
and those skilled in lamentation shall be called to wail.
Vs 17 In every vineyard there shall be wailing, for I will pass through your midst,” says the Lord. (my
As just noted above, these two verses give further warning to the people about what is coming and
provide incentive for conversion. They also introduce part 2 (5:18-27) of the current section of
5:1-6:14. Recall that the actual lamentation in verse 2 stated: Fallen, no more to rise, is the virgin
Israel; forsaken on her land, with none to raise her up (RSV). Just how extensive this event would be is
made known in 15-16. All the people, in both city and country, the farmer and the merchant-all will
feel its effects. These verses may be predicting an economic collapse due to drought and blight (see
Amos 1:2; 4:7-9).
Vs 18 Woe upon those who look forward to the day of the Lord! What is this day of the Lord to you? It
is a day of darkness, not of light.
Vs 19 It will be like a man fleeing from a lion, only to run into a bear; or like a man who enters his
home, places his hand against the wall, and has a serpent bite him.
Vs 20 Will not the day of the Lord be a day of darkness, rather than of light, of gloom rather than
The day of the Lord was popularly conceived as a day of God’s salvific intervention on behalf a his
people against their enemies. God, however, makes it clear that for sinners among his own people it
will not be a day of salvation but of judgment.
Darkness, light and gloom are words often associated with God’s manifestation of himself for purposes
of revelation (Exodus 19:16-24), or for the purpose of defeating his enemies (Exodus 14:19-31;
Habakkuk 3:3-15). The holy of Holies in the temple at Jerusalem was also a place of darkness (1 kings
8:10-13). Having rejected the temple At Jerusalem in favor of their false shrines; and having rejected
the revealed will of God; how can the people of the north continue to look forward to the day of the
Lord as a good thing to be desired?
Vs 21 Your feasts I hate and reject;. Your solemn assemblies I have no delight in.
Vs 22 Although you offer up to me burnt-offerings and grain offerings I will not accept them. Nor will
I look upon your fatted peace offerings.
Vs 23 Take away from me the clamor of your songs; I refuse to hear the melody of your harps. (my
Worship at the false northern shrines, coupled with rampant sin, especially injustice towards others,
combined to make their sacrifices and worship hateful to God.
Vs 24 Instead, let justice roll down like a river, and righteousness like a never ending stream.
Justice, mercy, and faith are far better sacrifices than mechanical actions: “Woe to you, scribes and
Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and
dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law,
justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without
neglecting the others.” (Matt 23:23)
Vs 25 Did you bring to me sacrifices and offerings the forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel?
In the wilderness the people often brought sacrifice to God, but it was seldom done rightly. It was often
mixed in with error and idolatry. One only needs to think of the golden calf (exodus 32-34); the
discontent and rebelliousness of the people (Numbers 10-14); and the rebellion of Korah and Dathan
(Numbers 16). The many punishments God had to bring upon the people in the wilderness shows that
something more than just sacrifice is needed to maintain the covenant with God. The verse should be
seen in close relation to the one preceding it; the sense is: “did you bring me sacrifices accompanied by
justice and righteousness when you were in the desert?”
Vs 26 You will carry away with you Sikkuth, your king, and Kaiwan, the star-god, images that you
made for yourselves;
Vs 27 for I will put you into captivity east of Damascus,” says the one whose name is Lord, the God of
Sikkuth was an astral god of Mesopotamia who was associated with the planet Saturn. Kaiwan was an
Akkadain god who was also associated with Saturn. Among the Akkadians Kaiwan was the god of
justice. Recall that in chapter 5 God was described as He who made the Pleiades and Orion. Stars and
planets are not gods but the creation of the One God who made and maintains control over them.
Nothing gods made by human hands are worthless. These “gods” will be carried into exile by the
people who made them when “The God” punishes them
Captivity east of Damascus is certainly a reference to the exile the people would suffer at the hands of
the Assyrians in 722BC

Vs 1 Woe to those who dwell in ease at Zion, and to the ones who think themselves secure on the
mountain of Samaria, leaders of the first of th nations to whom the people of Israel come!
Vs 2 Go over to Calneh and see, pass on from there to Hamath the great, and from there go down
to Gath of the Philistines! Are you superior to these kingdoms? Are your borders greater than
their borders?
Vs 3 You would put far from you the evil day, yet you bring on quickly the reign of violence. (My
This is the beginning of the third woe oracle (see 5:1, 7) and is directed to the leaders of the people.
Here the oracle is directed not only to the leaders of Israel but to the leaders of Judah as well. At this
time Judah was in vassalage to the Israel which is described somewhat sarcastically as the first of
nations, and it appears that the primary focus of the oracle is Israel. The fact is that both Judah and
Israel were small, neither being much bigger than the nations and peoples they had subjugated. Their
presumed military might seems silly in the face of rising Assyrian power but the leaders were
unconcerned, trusting in their armies. In their carelessness and unconcern for the growing threat of
Assyria they have, put far from themselves the evil day, yet their slovenly luxury will be their
downfall for it brings on quickly the reign of violence.
Vs 4 Woe to you who recline on beds of ivory and stretch out in comfort upon couches to dine
upon lambs from the flock and calves from the stall
Vs 5 as you compose songs to the tune of a harp and, like David, improvise the accompaniment;
Vs 6 all the while drinking wine from bowls and anointing yourselves with fine oil, not at all
sickened by the demise of Joseph! Vs 7 For this reason, you will be the first to go into exile, your
unseemly celebrations shall come to an end. (My Translation)
The prophet now shows us how the people have put far from themselves the evil day (vs 3). It would
appear that they were engaging in escapism through luxury, giving no thought, paying no heed to the
moral decay in their own lives and in their nation. Food, finery, and freedom from manual labor would
be their undoing. The reference to beds of ivory reminds us of what was said about the destruction of
the houses of ivory in 3:15. The reference to couches is a reminder of what was said in 3:12: “Thus
says the Lord: As a shepherd grabs from the lion’s mouth two legs, or a portion of an ear, so
shall the sons of Israel be saved with a corner of a couch, or a portion of a bed” (my translation).
The attitude of these people reminds one of our Lord’s description of the people in Noah’s day as the
flood approached (see Matt 24: 37-39).
Vs 8 The Lord God has sworn by his own self, ‘I the Lord, the God of hosts say, the arrogance of
Jacob I loathe, his strongholds I detest, and his city I shall deliver up with all that it contains.
Vs 9 If ten men remain in a single house, then surely these shall die too.
Vs 10 A handful will remain to dispose of the dead that are in the houses, and if one these should
say to a survivor in a house “is anyone in there with you?” he shall respond “not one;” and he
shall say “Quiet! The name of the Lord we must not speak.” (My translation)
Once again the prophet returns to the theme of the military invasion and defeat of Israel (see 2:13-16;
and 3:11-15). Israel, under Jeroboam the second had grown strong militarily and had expanded its
borders, but without God it would be no match for the might of the Assyrian empire, the nu-named but
obvious threat the prophet has in mind. Once again we see that the devastation will be immense.
A relative fulfilling his familial obligations is portrayed as calling into a house for possible survivors
and finds that only one is alive. The command not to speak the Lord’s name is probably connected to
the fact that contact with the dead constituted ritual impurity.
Vs 11 Because the Lord commands it, the great house shall be struck into fragments, and the
small house into rubble
Vs 12 Do horses run across the rocky heights? Does a man furrow the sea with his oxen? Yet you
have turned justice into something toxic. You have made the fruit of righteousness sour.
Verse 8 attributed the judgement described in verses 9 and 10 to the arrogance of Jacob. Verses 11
reiterates that such judgement is commanded by the Lord, and verse 12 attributes the judgement to the
perversion of righteousness, surely a sign of the arrogance of Jacob. Just as it is unthinkable that
horses would run across rocky heights, or that a man would furrow the sea with oxen, so too is the
perversion of justice unthinkable, but the people have done it.
Vs 13 Yet you glorify yourselves over Lodebar, saying, ‘did we not, by virtue of our own strength,
take to ourselves Karnaim?’
Vs 14 Look out! I will raise against you a people, O house of Israel, says the the Lord, the God of
hosts, and they will oppress you from the opening of Hamath to the brook of Arabah. (My
Lodebar and karnaim were two Ammonite cities. The name of the first means “nothing,” and that of
the second means “two horns,” a symbol of strength. In other words, the people are glorifying
themselves with the taking of “nothing.” They are celebrating their strength by the taking of “two
horns.” Horns were not only a symbol of strength, they were also found on altars. If one whose life was
in danger could seize these horns he would be safe (see 1 Kings 2:28). The people trust that their own
strength, by which they took Karnaim (two horns) will be their protection and salvation, but such is not
the case. the opening of Hamath and the brook of Arabah defined the borders of the kingdom. The
entire nation will be afflicted.

7:1-8:3 contains four prophetic visions recounted by the prophet. The
first two visions (7:1-6) have the same basic format: The Lord shows
Amos a vision which he, Amos, begins to describe with the
word ”behold. ” A vision of agricultural destruction is then recounted,
followed by the prophet’s intercesionion that the impending punishment
not take place. Too this intercession the Lord responds favorably.
The second two visions (7:7-9 and 8:1-3) likewise are formatted similar to one another. As in the first
two visions the prophet is shown something by God, however, unlike the first two visions God is the
first to speak. This effectively prevents the prophet from interceding on behalf of the people. When
God speaks, he asks the prophet a question concerning the vision and the prophet responds by
describing what he sees. The two visions in and themselvesves do not suggest the idea of divine
punishment but are interpretedted by God after the prophet’’s response.
It appears to me that the first two visions recount things that have
already taken place. Twice God punished the people with agricultural
disasters (locust, fire) but brought such punishment to and end in
response to the prophet’’s plea. No doubt this combination of
punishment and mercy was meant to bring the people to their senses and
lead them to repentance, but this failed. This is why the third and
fourth visions announce punishment without any remittance.
The third and fourth visions are separatedrated by the dispute between Amos and Amazaiah (7:10-17),
priest of the Temple of Bethel. The sandwiching of the dispute between prophet and priest is not
accidental. The priest is to be seen as a paradigm representative of the people. His desire not to hear
prophecy and while maintaining the false worship of Bethel is characteristicistic of most of the people
of the northern kingdom. It is this attitude that motivates God to bring the northern kingdom to and end,
which is the message of visions three and four.
The fourth vision is followed by a prophetic oracle (8:4-14). It is
directed against the false religious piety of the people of the north
who anxiously wait for the end of holy days so they can once again
start cheating the poor (8:4-6). The joy of their hypocritical rituals
will be turned into mourning rites (8:7-10). A famine will come upon
the land. A famine not of bread, or water, but of hearing the word of
God ((8:11-14). The time of divine forbearance, manifested by the
sending of prophets to call for repentance, will come to an end.
This oracle is followed by a fifth vision detailing the destruction of the Temple at Bethel (9:1-6).
Following this comes an oracle announcing the destruction of the northern kingdom and the exile of the
people (9:7-10). The book ends on a positive note however, with a messianic promise (9:11-15).

Verses 1-3 of chapter 8 recount Amos’ vision of the fruit basket while the remainder of the chapter (vss
4-14) contain an oracle against greed. This oracle ends with a statement that those who swear by the
false altar (which the prophet has already condemned in 3:14-15; 7:9) will fall. This leads into the final
vision which opens chapter 9, for there we see the Lord standing by the altar about to be destroyed.
1) Here is what the Lord showed to me: a basket of ripe summer fruit.
2) “What is it you are seeing, Amos,” he asked. “I see a basket of ripe summer fruit,” was my
response. Then said the Lord to me:
“The end is upon my people Israel; no more will I turn back my punishment.
3) The songs of the temple shall be turned into wailings on that day, says the Lord God. “Many
shall be the bodies of the dead, strewn about everywhere. Silence!” (My translation)
In the vision the prophet is shown a basket containing kelub qayis: literally, “summer fruit.” The
Hebrew is a reference to the fruit (kelub) that is harvested as the rainy season at the end of summer
(qayis) begins. The meaning of the vision becomes apparent when a word play in the Hebrew text is
seen. Amos sees qayis fruit and the Lord responds that the qes (the end) has come for Israel. Though
the two words are from different roots they do sound alike and, furthermore, something that is ripe has
reached the end of a process. This is why many modern translations read something like this: “The time
is ripe for my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.” (NIV) Many scholars speculate that Amos
went to the northern sanctuary at the time of the Sukkoth (Tabernacles) festival which celebrated the
end of the summer harvest.
The Lords command for silence at the end of verse three is, in context, highly ironic. The call to silence
was often done in a theophanic context; that is to say, in contexts where God manifests his presence in
the Jerusalem temple at the time of sacrifice (see Hab 2:20; Zech 2:17). Having had a funeral dirge
sung over her because of her false worship at false temples (see 5:1-6 and my notes) the Lord now
declares that their songs of worship will become wails of mourning due to the dead strewn about the
land. Such a number of bodies would make the land ritually unclean, an unfit place to worship God.
God will reveal his presence in Israel not by manifesting his presence on a false altar in a false temple,
but rather, by destroying them.
4) Hear this, you who walk all over the needy and bring to destruction the poor of the land!
5) You say, “when will the new moon be past, so that we may sell our crops? When will the
sabbath be done, so that we may market the wheat and make the ephah small while making great
the shekel; and so that we might weigh with false scales.
6) So that we might by the lowly for silver, and the poor for the price of a pair of sandals. And so
that we may sell even the
refuse of the wheat. (My translation)
The oracle opens with a typical prophetic “call to attention” formula: Hear this. The oracle is directed
against those who abuse those of lowly means and recalls the prophet’s original indictment of Israel
(see 2:6-16). It also recalls the sarcastic remarks God made concerning their hypocritical worship in
4:4-5. Here the two elements of greed and hypocritical worship are combined. Whether or not the
subjects of the oracle were actually thinking the thoughts attributed to them is irrelevant. By their
practices they were showing contempt for God and right worship regardless of what their intentions
The new moon marked the first day of the month on the Hebrew calendar and a special temple
sacrifice was to be done for it (Numbers 28:11-15). The text suggests that the people of the Northern
Kingdom did no work or commerce on this day though the law of Moses nowhere legislated such a
thing. All forms of work and commerce were forbidden on the sabbath except, apparently, in the case
of dire necessity. The subjects of the oracle are shown adhering to the devotions only grudgingly,
anxiously waiting for the special days to be over so that they can begin their cheating business as usual.
The purpose of Sabbath and the worship of God is lost upon them. The ephah was a very ancient
standard of measurement for dry good, particularly grain. It is equal to slightly more than twenty and
three-quarter quarts. How exactly the ephah was to be made small is unknown. Presumably the grain
was mixed with the refuse of the wheat to attain the ephah measure. The shekel was a standard for
weighing out silver and gold. Making great the shekel is something of an ironic term. A shekel was a
standard of weight by which gold and silver were measured out. One made the shekel great by
diminishing its weight. A business man could then weigh out what appeared to be the agreed upon
price for a poor man’s wholesale goods. Since the shekel was made “greater” by becoming lighter, the
poor man’s profit was less since it took less gold on the balance scale to equal a shekel that had been
tampered with. Thus from the cheating businessman’s perspective, a lighter shekel is a greater shekel.
False scales and the cheating of people in the area of commerce was strongly condemned in the Bible,
suggesting that it was a common abuse . Deuteronomy calls those who engage in such practice “an
abomination in the sight of the Lord” (see Dt 25:13-16). Priests and kings were responsible for
ensuring that these practices not take place.
8 :7
By the pride of Jacob has the Lord sworn: “Surely, none of their deeds will I forget.” (My translation)
The Lord is usually shown swearing an oath in reference to himself or his holiness since there is
nothing greater than him. Here, ironically, he swears by the pride of Jacob. Men swear oaths by things
that are greater than themselves (such as God’s name); here the implication is that Jacob (the northern
kingdom) thinks itself greater than God because by its deeds it flaunts his commands. By swearing an
oath in their name to punish them for their deeds God is sarcastically criticizing their presumed
greatness (pride).
Shall not the land tremble because of this, while all who dwell upon it mourn as it rises up and is
turbulent before sinking back again like the river of Egypt?
Because of the peoples deeds (vs 7) the land will be hit with an earthquake (see 1:1). In an earthquake
the land rises up and is turbulent, like a river in flood.
9) And it shall come to pass on that day, says the Lord God, that I will cause the sun to go down at
noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear of day.
10) And I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentations; and I will bring
sackcloth onto all loins, and baldness upon every head; and I will make it as the mourning for an only
son, and bring them to the end of a bitter day. (ASV. This book is in the public domain. I’ve modified
the text slightly)
The comparison of the earthquake to the river Nile in Egypt was no mistake. God had promised Israel
that if it did not obey him he would afflict them with the plagues of Egypt (see Dt 28:60). One of those
plagues (the ninth) was darkness (Exodus 10:21-29). The tenth was the death of the firstborn and the
mourning that accompanied it (Ex 11). The wearing of sackcloth was a traditional sign of mourning (1
Kings 20:31), as was the shaving of the head (Micah 1:16). As has already become clear, the worship
of the northern kingdom is tainted. False feasts and songs of worship, if not repented of, can only lead
to mourning and lamentation. It should also be remembered that the vision of the fruit basket with
which chapter 8 began was explained as signifying that the temple songs would be turned to mourning
as the land became littered with bodies (8:2-3).
11) Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord God, when I will send a famine upon the land, not a
famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the word of the Lord.
12) And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east; they shall run to and fro
to seek the word of the Lord and not find it. (ASV. I’ve changed the translation somewhat)
Behold, days are coming is a formulaic prophetic expression announcing a coming event. The event
announced here is calamitous, an absence of the word of God, here meaning prophecy. This absence is
compared to famine and drought, two major punishments God had promised the people they could
avoid by heeding his word (see Dt 28). The drought and famine which the people were apparently
already experiencing as a warning (Amos 1:1; 4:6-7) did not lead to the heeding of the prophetic call to
repentance (Amos 2:11-12). God’s patience is nearing its end and too late the people will realize their
folly. The Chroniclers judgement concerning Judah in 587 BC could just as easily been directed against
Israel in Amos’ day (see 2 Chron 36:15-16).
13) In that day shall the fair virgins and the young men faint for thirst.
14) They that swear by the sin of Samaria, and say, ‘As thy god, O Dan, liveth;’ and, ‘As the way of
Beer-Sheba liveth;’ they shall fall, and never rise up again.
This passage builds upon the theme of drought and famine and upon the theme of mourning and death
as well.
In verse 7 the lord swore an oath not to forget the deeds of pride done by the northern kingdom, here
the oracle ends with the demise of those in the northern kingdom who swear falsely by the sin of
Samaria, a reference to the false shrine and bull shaped altar at Bethel on Mount Samaria. As thy god,
O Dan, liveth is an oath formula. Dan was the tribe which dwelt in the extreme north of Israel and a
settlement of the same name was located on the northern frontier. At this settlement their was a false
shrine (see 1 Kings 12:29). Beer-Sheba is in the southern kingdom of Judah. What the oath formula
related to it intends is unknown. The phrase “from Dan to Beer-Sheba” was a proverbial statement
designating the entire promised land. Perhaps the reference to Beer-Sheba here is meant to reflect the
apparent attitude of the northern kingdom that sacrifice to God can be offered anywhere, rather than in
Jerusalem alone.

Vs 1 Thus the Lord God showed me: and, behold, he formed locusts in the beginning of the
shooting up of the latter growth; and lo, it was the latter growth after the king’s mowing.
Vs 2 And it came to pass that, when they had made an end of the eating of the grass of the land,
then I said, “O Lord God, forgive, I beseech thee: how shall Jacob stand? for he is small.”
Vs 3 The Lord repented (turned back) concerning this: “It shall not be,” said the Lord God.
The first vision concerns a locust plague which apparently has already taken place. Such plagues were
common in the ancient Middle East and have occurred in modern times as well. Their effect is
devastating (see Joel 1:1-20). God had promised his people immunity from such trouble provided that
they remained faithful to the covenant; but he had also promised them trouble if they disobeyed it (see
Deuteronomy 28 and the eighth plague on Egypt in Exodus 10:1-20).
The timing of this plague was disastrous. The beginning of the shooting up of the latter growth
refers to the time that the vegetables had begun to sprout up above the ground and grow. This was
called the latter growth (or planting) because such crops were sown after the wheat and other grains.
We are to understand then that the nearly mature grain crop, and the young vegetable crop both fell
victim to this plague. Increasing the problem is the fact that the King’s mowing had already taken
place. Part of the lands produce belonged-to the king as a sort of tax (1 Samuel 8:11-18). Probably, in
the event of an agricultural disaster, the tax would have been mitigated, but as we have already seen,
the leaders of the people were not overly concerned with their welfare.
The prophet Amos, in typical prophetic fashion, intercedes for an end to the situation and receives a
positive response on the part of God. Thus we see that God’s justice is tempered with mercy. The Lord
repents (turns back) the punishment. This action stands in marked contrast to the promised threats
uttered against Israel and the surrounding pagan nations in 1:3-2:16 (see the repeated “I will not cause
it to turn back”). This is a major reason why I believe the first two visions (7:1-6) are describing events
which have already taken place. The primary purpose of the prophecies in the book is to show that
God’s forbearance, previously manifested in his relenting of the punishment of locust and fire, has
come to an end. (Note: for an example of prophetic intercesion see Exodus 32:7-14. There are many
examples in the Bible, but God’s patience in the face of sin has its limits, as the often repeated
command to Jeremiah not to intercede for the people shows 7:16; 11:14; 14:11).
Vs 4 Thus the Lord God showed me: behold, the Lord God called for a judgement by fire; and it
consumed the great deep, and would have eaten up the land.
Vs 5 Then I said, “O Lord God, cease, I beseech thee: how shall Jacob stand? for he is small.”
Vs 6 The Lord repented (turned back) concerning this: “This also shall not be,” says the Lord
A hyperbolic reference to a massive fire which is said to have consumed the sea (the great deep). We
are probably to understand a situation of drought which led to the evaporation of water from the Dead
and Galilee seas. This drought gave rise to a great fire. Again the Lord turns back the punishment at the
request of Amos.
Vs 7 Thus He shwoed me: behold, the Lord stood beside a wall made by a plumb-line, with a
plmb-line in his hand.
Vs 8 And the Lord God said unto me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “a plumb-line.”
Then said the Lord God, “behold, I will set a plumb-line in the midst of my people Israel; I will
not again pass by them anymore;
Vs 9 and the high places of Isaac shall be desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid
waste; and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with a sword.”
A plumb-line is an ancient builders tool still in use today. Its purpose s to ensure that a wall is “plumb”
(i.e. straight up and down). A wall that is not “plumb” became a figure of moral failing. God is
portraying himself here as a carpenter who is tired of passing by a defective wall and now means to fix
it. The sanctuaries of Israel and the house of Jeroboam are worthless hovels whose walls are out of
“plumb.” They are fit only for destruction.
Vs 10 Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, “Amos has
conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words.
Vs 11 for thus Amos says ‘ Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be led away
captive out of his land.’”
Here begins the conflict between Amos, the prophet, and Amaziah, the priest. The conflict is very
ironic since it was the duty of a king to insure right worship. As we saw in the introduction, the first of
the northern kings, Jeroboam 1, had established false worship and sanctuaries, along with a false
priesthood. None of the kings who followed him, including Jeroboam 2, did anything to bring this
situation to an end. So a (probably) illegitimate priest is whining to a rebellious king about a prophet’s
denunciation of false worship and the dynasty which was allowing it to continue.
Vs 12 Also Amaziah said unto Amos, “O you seer, go, flee away into the land of Judah, and there
eat bread, and prophecy there:
Vs 13 but prophecy no more at Bethel; for it is the kings sanctuary, and it is a royal house.”
Vs 14 Then Amos answered, and said to Amaziah, “I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s
son; but I was a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees:
Vs 15 And the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said unto me, “Go, prophecy
unto my people Israel.”
In this exchange we get some idea of the sorry state into which prophecy had fallen. There were in
ancient times professional prophetic guilds of professional prophets whose disciples were known as
sons of the prophets. Professional prophetism is an acceptable practice in the bible, however, like all
offices it was open to abuse. Amaziah readily assumes not only that Amos is a member of the guild
prophets, but also that he is a dishonest one who prophecies to eat bread. In other words, he believes
that Amos tells people what they want to hear in order to earn money, rather than telling them what
they need to hear.
Vs 16 Now therefore hear the word of the Lord: “you say, ‘prophecy not against Israel, and drop
not your word against the house of Isaac;’”Vs 17 therefore, thus says the Lord: “Your wife shall
be a harlot in the city, and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword, and your land
shall be divided by line; and you shall die in a land that is unclean, and Israel will surely be led
away captive out of his land.”
For his defiance of the prophetic word Amaziah will suffer greatly, His wife shall be a harlot in the
city. The condemnation of Amaziah is clearly related to military catastrophe. When cities were
conquered the women often were at the mercy of the victors who were not above rape or the use of
death threats to get what they wanted. When the kingdom falls, Amaziah’s wife will suffer such a fate.
His sons and daughters will fall by the sword. This may mean that they are young, and therefore, at
least as far as the victors are concerned, more burden than booty. The priest himself will go into exile
among the gentiles with most of the nation.

Vs 1 I saw the Lord standing beside the altar; and he said, Smite the capitals, that the thresholds may
shake; and break them in pieces on the head of all of them; and I will slay the last of them with the
sword: there shall not one of them flee away, and there shall not one of them escape. (Note: unless
otherwise stated, all quotes come from the AMERICAN STANDARD VERSION. The text is in the
public domain).
I saw. Reminds us of the superscription which spoke of “the words of Amos…which he saw
concerning Israel.” the Lord standing beside the altar. This could also be translated “on the altar” which
would be more in keeping with the position God is usually said to assume. However, it should be kept
in mind that this is a false altar upon which God is never have said to have manifested his presence.
Indeed, seeking the Lord as if he were present on such a false altar has already been condemned
God commands someone to smite the capitals, that the threshold may shake. Who exactly is being
command to do this is unclear. Since what follows has God speaking in the first person, it seems likely
that he is speaking with himself (see Gen 18:16-21). The capitals are to be broken so as to fall upon the
heads of those worshipping in the temple. There may be an allusion here to Samson’s destruction of the
temple of Dagon (Judges 16:23-31).
I will slay the last of them…there shall not one of them escape. This may be an allusion to Jehu’s
destruction of the temple of Baal (2 Kings 10:18-27.
Vs 2-4 though they dig into Sheol, from there my hand shall take them; and though they climb up to
heaven, from there will I bring them down. And though they hide themselves in the top of Carmel, I
will search and take them out; and though they be hid from my sight in the bottom of the sea, I will
command the serpent to bite them. And though they go into captivity before their enemies, thence I will
command the sword, and it shall slay them: And I will set my eyes upon them for evil, and not for
No matter how deep they go (Sheol, sea), nor how high (the top of Mt. Carmel, heaven) they will not
escape God’s punishments, for he is the Lord of creation as the following verses make clear:
Vs 5-6 For the Lord, God of hosts, is he who touches the land and it melts, and all that dwell thereupon
shall mourn; and the land shall rise up like the river, and sink back again, like the river of Egypt; It is
he that builds his chambers in the heavens, and has founded his vault upon the earth; he that calls forth
the waters of the sea, and pours them out upon the face of the earth; the Lord is his name (My
translation based heavily on ASV)
Like 4:13 and 5:8-9 these verses are a doxology The image of the land melting and its rising up and
sinking back like the river (i.e. the Nile) indicates an earthquake as in 8:8 (see also 1:1). The word
melts in verse 5 could (and probably should) be translated as tremble, shakes, or shudders (see Psalm
46:6; Nahum 1:5).
Vs 7 Are you not like the children of the Ethiopians to me, O children of Israel? says the Lord. Was it
not I who brought Israel up out of Egypt, as I brought the Philistines out from Caphtor, and the Syrians
from Kir?
Israel is in reality no different from any pagan nation because it has separated itself from the one God
and his covenant and laws. Mere possession of the land of promise is nothing, since God gave land
even to the pagan Philistines (who are said to have come from Caphtor, probably Crete). Its covenant
relationship with God is what set Israel apart (see Exodus 19:5), but this relationship they had severed,
thereby making themselves no better than other nations (see Exodus 8:19-20).
Vs 8-10 Behold, the eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom, and I shall destroy it from off
the face of the earth; save that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, says the Lord. For, lo, I will
command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all the nations, like grain is sifted in a sieve, yet the
smallest kernel shall not fall upon the earth. All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, who
say, evil shall not overtake nor meet us.
Only those lowly and humble enough to repent (symbolised by the smallest kernel) will escape. Those
out of touch with their own sinfulness see no need to repent and will therefore be lost.