Amos Chapter 4: Necessity of God’s Judgment

Nov 18th, 2009 | By | Category: Amos, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Amos Chapter 4: Necessity of God’s Judgment

Amos 4:1 Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan, that are in the mountain of Samaria, which oppress the poor, which crush the needy, which say to their masters, Bring, and let us drink.

Verse 1 is based on the analogy of cows, female animals. Bashan was a fertile, productive area that supported cattle with its herbage, or grass.

This message was directed to the northern kingdom. Many Bible commentaries say that the kine represent women and that thus the message is directed to the women of the northern kingdom, the “mountain [kingdom] of Samaria,” the ten tribes. The focus of attention was the northern kingdom with its scenic, fertile, green land that supported cattle. However, there is a complication, for the “kine … oppress the poor … [and] crush the needy,” and women in ancient times were not notorious for oppressing the poor because they were not in positions of authority.

The idea of fertility and productivity suggests that wealth and possessions breed indolence and luxury. Rome, an example from history, was noted for its warriors and the masculinity and brutality that were involved in its conquests. Later in history, when Rome depended on barbarians from the north as mercenaries, it lost its masculinity and became effeminate and soft. It was Rome’s luxury that bred indolence and lack of sensitivity. The wealthy fed upon the people of the land—they oppressed the poor. The “kine” got their wealth by eating the “grass,” that is, the common people.

Q: The kine “say to their masters, Bring, and let us drink.” Is the implication that the women exerted an influence upon the men to oppress the poor by demanding more and more luxury?

A: That would be true according to some of the Bible commentaries. However, the prophecy is directed to Samaria and the kine of Bashan, both of which were related to the oppression of the poor and the crushing of the needy.

The drinking of wine is implied, because wine is a symbol of luxury. The wealthy enriched themselves at the expense of the poor.

Q: Does verse 1 liken the men to kine because they were becoming soft in their luxury?

A: The “masters” utilized the kine, but the people followed the leadership like sheep. For example, the corrupt media today goes into all kinds of demoralizing facets. Heroes and villains crash cars, run down people, etc., whereas they should be held accountable for their actions. The general populace absorbs these corrupt values by viewing the media. The people are suppliant in the hands of the leaders. The leaders oppress the poor by giving orders to others (the kine) to feed on them. The cows are responsible, but the leaders are even more responsible for giving the orders to feed on the grass, the common people.

“Let us drink.” The pronoun “us” would be the well-fed kine and the masters, who lived off the poor, the grass. The condemnation was against those in high places, as well as the underlings, who cooperated with the wrongdoing.

Q: Is Bashan related to Antichrist, for Papacy oppresses the poor and crushes the needy?

A: Yes, when we spiritualize these verses.

Amos 4:2 The Lord GOD hath sworn by his holiness, that, lo, the days shall come upon you, that he will take you away with hooks, and your posterity with fishhooks.

The analogy here is to fishing and marine life. Verse 2 suggests that the humiliating captivity into Assyria was imminent.

God would “take [1] you [the ten tribes] away with hooks, and [2] your posterity with fishhooks.” First, God took away the ten-tribe kingdom and later the two-tribe kingdom.

Some in the northern kingdom who saw the trouble coming fled with their household goods to the southern kingdom; those who escaped the king of Assyria fled to Judah.

Amos 4:3 And ye shall go out at the breaches, every cow at that which is before her; and ye shall cast them into the palace, saith the LORD.

The first part of verse 3, “Ye shall go out at the breaches,” suggests an opening in a net. A fisherman uses a gaff (“hook”) to help pull the fish out of the water. A gaff effects a forceful extraction of the fish from the water, their normal habitat. The implication was that the northern kingdom would be forcibly extracted from its normal homeland and taken to a new situation of severity and harshness.

The RSV and the NIV do not translate “palace” but leave the Hebrew word untranslated as “Harmon,” which means “harem.” First, the ten tribes and later the two tribes would become part of the “harem.” Usually when an enemy entered the land, the primary target was the men of war and the male children. There was selectivity with the women. Some were raped and murdered, and some were taken captive to be personal slaves and part of the harem of the king’s palace.

The majority in the ten tribes were killed by Assyria. Those who escaped into Judah got their judgment later. Those who were taken into captivity were treated as slaves.

Amos 4:4 Come to Beth-el, and transgress; at Gilgal multiply transgression; and bring your sacrifices every morning, and your tithes after three years:

Amos 4:5 And offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, and proclaim and publish the free offerings: for this liketh you, O ye children of Israel, saith the Lord GOD.

The prophet used sarcasm in verses 4 and 5. Instead of looking to the true God in their need, the ten tribes looked to their false gods.

Q: Is the RSV accurate for the end of verse 4: “Bring … your tithes every three days”?

A: No. There was a tithing every three years under the Law (Deut. 26:12). The purpose of the tithe was to benefit the stranger, the Levite, the orphan, and the widow so that they could “eat within thy gates, and be filled.” On the third year, the tithes of all three years were brought.

When Jeroboam instituted the worship of the golden calves at Dan and Bethel, the Lord’s pictures and types were used. Certain practices were stolen from the Law and used for the false gods. What the people were accustomed to do for the true God was now done for the false gods. And much of Catholicism is a copy of the Old Testament—incense, robes of the high priest, feasts, etc. At the same time, it is said that the Jews were rejected and Catholicism is the fulfillment of the Law. The priesthood made up monetary penalties for sin, whereas the Old Testament set a value (say, 25 percent) for what was stolen, plus the replacement of the stolen goods. The Law was a type to be spiritually fulfilled, not literally fulfilled to benefit the coffers.

Tithing was made literal to get the income. God was indignant that His religion would be adapted to false gods.

With the ten tribes, instead of the tithes benefiting widows and orphans, they were used to enrich the wealthy through lands, estates, etc. Ostensibly, the tithes looked good, but they were not properly used. Instead of helping the poor, they impoverished the poor—just the opposite. And in the antitype, instead of benefiting the poor, the tithes have helped to increase the power and wealth of the false Church. In the Tabernacle sacrifices, the bullock was a symbol of the future Savior, who would die to cover the people’s sins. Instead, calf idols were made and used to promote adultery and fornication and to get money for the false religion.

The prophets had to be so much in tune with God’s will and thinking that when they were told to give a message, it would be given with the proper spirit, inflection, and emotion. For instance, if the message was one of indignation and judgment, the prophet had to genuinely thunder. “Offer a sacrifice … with leaven” was delivered in a truly sarcastic tone. So was “proclaim and publish the free offerings”! Not only were those offerings not free, but they were extorted from the common people, who then bragged about their supposed freewill offerings. Their attitude was the exact opposite of Matthew 6:1, “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them.” The right hand is not to know what the left hand is doing.

“This liketh you” means “this you like [to do].” The people had pleasure in doing these things.

Amos 4:6 And I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and want of bread in all your places: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD.

Amos 4:7 And also I have withholden the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest: and I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city: one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered.

“Cleanness of teeth” was a symbol of hunger and famine.

Verse 7 does not contradict verse 6, for at different times, God spared one place and cursed another. This was done continuously. At another time, the place previously spared was cursed and vice versa. God chose this method to discipline and awaken Israel to their lack of obedience. The punishments in verses 6-11 were all taken from the Law, which plainly said the Israelites would be blessed for obedience and punished for disobedience. “Shall there be evil [a calamity] in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?” (Amos 3:6).

Comment: If the nation had learned from these sporadic and selective rebukes, the coming harsh judgment at the hands of Assyria would not have been necessary.

Reply: The reason the judgments came piecemeal—one “piece” blessed, the next “piece” cursed, and then vice versa—was to help Israel see that the happenings were of divine displeasure. If they had all suffered each time, the people would have said it was happenstance.

The very selectivity of the judgments was saying, “Wake up! Wake up! You have been grossly negligent!” Probably when a judgment occurred in a particular place, it followed a known incident of wrongdoing in that location. The judgments were based not only on Leviticus 26 but also on a current instance of disobedience. The people should have been able to draw the lesson. The judgments were selective at any given time, but all were guilty. The proof is the expressions “want of bread in all your places” and “cleanness of teeth in all your cities.”

When people live in an atmosphere of false teaching, the blindness is very strong. That is why Israel failed to recognize these natural calamities as judgments from God. Wrong doctrine can make one blind and deaf to truth. This is also true today with regard to false religion.

Withholding rain from the ten tribes “when there were yet three months to the harvest” was significant because rain at that time was critical for the crops to properly develop for harvest.

Fruitage of the earth will not develop without rain. At the end of the three months, the Israelites should have been able to reap their harvest. The withholding of rain was selective, but all places felt this judgment sooner or later. The NIV has “field” for “piece.”

Amos 4:8 So two or three cities wandered unto one city, to drink water; but they were not satisfied: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD.

The NIV is better: “People staggered from town to town for water but did not get enough to drink, yet you have not returned to me, declares the LORD.”

Comment: Back there the people did not have the news media of today. Word of the sporadic judgments of withholding rain spread as the thirsty inhabitants wandered from town to town to get water. As news reached each town, the people dwelling therein became responsible for getting the lesson by observing what had happened to others.

Various judgments were inflicted, so that if a city had enough rain, it received a locust plague or a pestilence or some other judgment instead. Hence all the people received a judgment of one kind or another for wrongdoing. The very selectivity of a particular kind of judgment should have made them realize it was from the Lord.

Amos 4:9 I have smitten you with blasting and mildew: when your gardens and your vineyards and your fig trees and your olive trees increased, the palmerworm devoured them: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD.

Comment: In verse 7, the contrast was that one city had rain and another did not; that is, the judgment was a lack of rain. Now here in verse 9, the opposite condition occurred as a judgment: an overabundance of rain that caused mildew. The city that at first felt it was being blessed with rain then got more and more until the crops were ruined. Or the city received a locust plague. The “palmerworm” is a developmental stage of the locust (see Joel 1:4).

Reply: In one case, there was diminution (lack of water), and in another case, there was excess (floods). Whichever occurred, the crops were destroyed.

God is interested in spiritual development with the new creature, whereas material, or temporal, blessings showed the Lord’s favor with the Jew, and the withholding of these showed disfavor.

Our spiritual development suffers if we do not hearken to God’s instructions.

Amos 4:10 I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt: your young men have I slain with the sword, and have taken away your horses; and I have made the stink of your camps to come up unto your nostrils: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD.

Comment: The punishments that would befall Israel for disobedience included plagues of sickness and disease (Deut. 28:58-60).

Reply: “Pestilence” was a plague of disease or sickness.

The Israelites could have horses, but they were not to put their trust in them. And they were not to have horses in the Temple environs. Horses were like money. Money in itself is not evil, but the love of money is the root of much evil.

“I … have taken away your horses.” This was selectivity too. Humans are far more precious than horses, yet humans were slain with the sword, and horses were captured and kept alive.

Horses were taken as a booty of war, but the people were killed.

The “stink” of the camps came up to the Israelites’ nostrils because of all the slain corpses. Even with the calamities, the people did not repent and return to the Lord. Conditions are similar today.

Generally speaking, consecrated Christians are spared the severest trials when natural disasters occur. Why? The reason is that to lose everything would affect them adversely as new creatures by distracting from spiritual matters. To have to get a new home, a new job, etc.,

would affect them for years. However, for those who have been a long time in the way, such calamities may be permitted because of the level of character development. At that point, patient endurance may become the trial. “Let patience have her perfect[ing] work” (James 1:4).

From a certain perspective, patient endurance is even more important than love because patience crystallizes and solidifies character if the trial is properly received.

Amos 4:11 I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD.

The word “some,” although supplied, is proper, for it shows selectivity, with some survivors being plucked from the fire. In other words, the people were on the brink of total destruction, and the Lord delivered some—like Lot. Amos was speaking for God and then inserted the parenthetical clause “as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.”

The Gilead portion of the ten tribes received considerable damage before the visitation of judgment came on the rest of the ten-tribe kingdom. Amos served before the Assyrian captivity. He was giving lessons of the past and particularly of the present. Instead of learning the lessons, the ten tribes were getting worse and worse, so it was now necessary for God to pluck some of them out of the land and take them as captives to Assyria.

Amos 4:12 Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.

“Prepare to meet thy God” is a reminder of the Israelites’ experiences at Mount Sinai. When Israel was taken out of Egypt, the people murmured. At Mount Sinai, God awesomely spoke to them with fire, earthquake, thunderings, etc., and Moses’ face shone.

The ten tribes would prepare to meet their God when they went into captivity, which was a severe experience away from their homeland with new gods and not knowing how many family members had perished. At that time, the people would want to return to the old paths.

If they were penitent, God would forgive them and bring them back to their homeland.

“Prepare to meet thy God” was the final experience to bring them to their senses—God had had enough!

In spite of all these sins and the strong language, God forgave the people as a nation. This will happen with the world of mankind too. In spite of all their evils and blasphemies, God will call them forth from the grave and give them the opportunity to walk up the highway of holiness to life and complete salvation and happiness. God could have forgotten the mass of people and just favored the few (Abraham, Isaac, etc.), but that is not His plan.

Amos 4:13 For, lo, he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought, that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, The LORD, The God of hosts, is his name.

What a majestic verse! The God of Israel was the Creator of earth. How could the people pursue their sinful ways? It is remarkable that the God of the Bible did not just give them up. All will have the opportunity to get life in the Kingdom, even though a number will end up in Second Death.

God’s great and miraculous power in nature, displayed day after day (such as the rising and setting of the sun), becomes commonplace and is rarely considered. But, as the first chapter of Romans shows, ignoring the light of nature brings responsibility and is one reason God can bring judgment on all. Nature condemns man if man does not reverence God.

The “high places” refer primarily to the heights of nature, to God’s largeness compared with the smallness of earth. Isaiah said the earth is literally like dust in the balances, like a tiny speck that can be blown away with a puff of wind. God walks leisurely and serenely on the wings of the wind, which to us is a powerful force. To Him, the clouds are like pavement. As Jesus walked on the water, so God walks on the wind as if it were solid. And He casually takes steps beyond and ahead of the wind.

The eagle is a very heavy bird. Because of its body weight, one wonders how it can fly.

However, the wings are so strong that they can sustain the eagle in flight. Many birds flap their wings at great speed in order to fly, but the eagle—a big, heavy bird—appears to fly in a slow, casual manner yet passes the others in its speed. The principle is the same with walking on the wings of the wind.

A secondary thought of the “high places” would be the heathen altars of Gilgal, Bethel, Dan, and so forth.

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