Amos Chapter 3: God Explains Punishment

Jan 21st, 2012 | By | Category: Amos, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Amos 3:1 Hear this word that the LORD hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying,

The “children of Israel,” the “whole family,” would be all 12 tribes. All 12 came out of Egypt.

Amos 3:2 You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.

Amos was now speaking a message that concerned the whole nation. “You only have I known” embraced both Judah and Israel. Guilt is often proportionate to the degree of light.

Thus the degree of understanding makes any act of disobedience that much more reprehensible, but one should not go to the other extreme and conclude that ignorance is bliss. One should not be fearful of knowing too much because of the greater responsibility. Being willingly ignorant also brings culpability.

Comment: Deuteronomy 7:6 specially emphasizes God’s relationship with Israel. “For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.”

Comment: Because God was dealing with Israel, He would punish them for disobedience. The hope was that they would repent.

Comment: Verse 2 can be used to prove that God shows partiality under certain circumstances.

Another example is that the gospel went westward, not eastward. And even receiving the truth of the Harvest message through the Pastor’s writings would be partiality.

Many Scriptures can appear to conflict if they are not properly understood in context. God expects us to be impartial in judgment. For example, evil is evil regardless of who commits it, but there can be partiality in other issues. God and Jesus discriminated, and so do we. Today’s laws do not permit discrimination between male and female, but the Bible says not to suffer a woman to teach in a public fashion (as an elder or minister). That discrimination is proper. Another area of discrimination is making a distinction between the consecrated and the unconsecrated—for example, in ecclesia voting and decision making.

Comment: Verse 2 is helpful in witnessing a comforting message to the Jews. It is sometimes hard for them to look back historically because the road has been difficult. They wonder how God can still be dealing with them. But even in their time of favor, God said He would punish them for their iniquities.

Reply: The word “therefore” in verse 2 is very important and should be read with emphasis. After God has done so much for His people and they turned their backs to Him, is it not reasonable that He will punish them? God is reasonable. He was saying in effect, “I have dealt exclusively with you, and you have ignored me. Therefore, it becomes necessary for me to visit some form of retribution upon you.”

Comment: That same principle is stated in the New Testament: ”For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Heb. 12:6).

Reply: That text shows God’s reasonableness, especially since He is trying to qualify Christians for a position in the Little Flock. The consecrated must be tested and developed, and love punishes where necessary.

Amos 3:3 Can two walk together, except they be agreed?

The “two” are God and Israel.

Comment: This verse has been misapplied in the past to tighten the restrictions between brethren.

Reply: Verse 3 is talking about a personal relationship between Israel (or an individual) and the Lord—not between an individual and an organization or between two individuals.

What did this statement imply for Israel down the road? The implication was that because of Israel’s sins and disobedience, God would have to punish them and turn His back on them in a period of disfavor. No longer could He be patient and deal with them. It was essential for Israel to go into captivity because the nation had ignored the warnings about their sins. A separation had to take place because God and Israel were not agreed. The nation (not individuals) was not in agreement with God, for the people were worshipping Baal, a heathen god.

Comment: That same principle applies today. “Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the LORD” (Isa. 52:11). “But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth?” (Psa. 50:16). The unconsecrated do not have the same privileges as the consecrated. One must be agreed with God through a covenant of sacrifice.

Amos 3:4 Will a lion roar in the forest, when he hath no prey? will a young lion cry out of his den, if he have taken nothing?

Amos 3:5 Can a bird fall in a snare upon the earth, where no gin is for him? shall one take up a snare from the earth, and have taken nothing at all?

Amos 3:6 Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?

What about the last question? The reference is not to moral evil but to a calamity. God had said to Israel, “If you do such and such, this is what will happen.” He was the custodian of their welfare; therefore, when calamity, disaster, hard times, or judgment came, He had allowed it because it was deserved and was meant for their good.

“Shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?” What would this question mean to the Christian? It would be like his saying, “When things do not prosper, when I have trials, are they intended to teach me a lesson, or are they designed to test my faithfulness? I must examine myself, for what a man sows, that shall he reap.” In other words, we can sow for good, and we can sow for bad. Good deeds and habits prosper us spiritually, and for bad deeds and habits, we suffer the consequences. With regard to suffering experiences, the Apostle Peter established a principle that can be along either of two lines. (1) Sometimes we receive punishment because we did something improper or wrong. (2) At other times, we get hard trials for our development and good. For example, if we have a difficult trial of illness, we should regard it as part of God’s discipline to prepare us for a place in the Kingdom. If God sees the necessity for permitting an accident, sickness, etc., then the experience is profitable to us if it is rightly received. But we should always examine ourselves to see if the trial has been permitted because of wrongdoing. We should ask in prayer, “Why am I having this experience?” If, with an honest and open heart, we cannot see a basis of wrongdoing, then we should consider the experience preparatory for being fitted for a place in the Kingdom. Paul suffered much, and the suffering worked for his good. He had many thrashing (hard beating) experiences. “Blessed are those who suffer for righteousness’ sake” is the principle.

Comment: An introverted individual can falsely blame himself or herself in cases where the test is simply one of faithfulness. The mind can imagine that an experience is a punishment. The Apostle Peter said, ”For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing” (1 Pet. 3:17).

Reply: Yes. However, if we determine that the suffering is for evil doing, then we should try to have the proper remorse and repentance, make restitution, and look for help to correct the fault, act, or deed.

Verses 4-6 are a series of questions, all of which are answered, “No!” The lion does not roar unless he has a prey; he roars to paralyze his victim. The young lion in his den cries when he has food. (To the contrary, baby birds incessantly chirp for food; they no sooner swallow a morsel than the chirping begins all over again.) A “gin” is a trap. If the trap has no bait, it is not a temptation. A snare taken up from the earth is the kind that springs upward with a noose around the neck when an animal steps on it. The trumpet sounds an alarm when the enemy is approaching, signaling great danger and alerting the people to prepare to defend themselves.

The implication of verses 4-6 is that when these things happen, there is a reason. Calamities occurred near the end of Israel’s national existence, because they were disobedient and not doing God’s will. Thus He was giving the Israelites an opportunity to pay attention. Amos was saying, “You are having these experiences to wake you up,” but the people did not get the point and the captivity occurred.

Amos 3:7 Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.

God revealed “his secret unto … the prophets,” that is, unto Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, and Jonah, all of whom were contemporaries. These prophets publicly roared on behalf of God. Their role was a hard one, for they had to say a lot of unpleasant things. They had to rebuke kings, priests, false prophets, and assemblies of the Lord’s people at feasts. God spoke to the prophets, and the prophets spoke to the people. Just as the lion roars in the forest and the bird is taken up by a snare, so God warned His people through the prophets. The problem was that their ears were deaf to the words of the prophets.

God did explain to Israel—and to us—a lot of truths: warnings, comforting statements, etc.

Therefore, we cannot charge God with not informing us. If we want to know His will, He will let us know. But if we do not like the person, agency, or channel God uses to admonish us and, therefore, do not recognize the instrumentality He has chosen, it is not His fault. Rather, it is because we are not really hungering to understand His Word so that we can obey it.

God said to the consecrated, “They shall be all [that is, everyone] taught” (John 6:45). All of the consecrated will get instruction, but will they recognize and hear it? As a people, Israel did not.

Only a remnant heard. God is discharged of any lack of compassion for or interest in His people because He will let a matter be known. Some get the message only when a jackass speaks to them, as was the case with Balaam. But at that point, it was too late for him to avoid the danger he was getting into through bad advice to heathen people.

Verse 7 is a remarkable statement. At all times—now, tomorrow, and on into the future—God will see that His people are informed to the degree of their development and according to their current circumstance or location. All of the consecrated get opportunities for instruction and a providence to suit them in their environment.

Comment: Sometimes people miss the warning because they only want to hear smooth things.

Comment: The Prophet Daniel spoke beautifully of the Heavenly Father: “He revealeth the deep and secret things” (Dan. 2:22). Through Daniel, God revealed a number of “secret things.”

Comment: The principle of verse 7 applies to the Book of Revelation and the message now due for the Christian.

Comment: Abraham was told in advance about Sodom and Gomorrah because God knew he would be faithful.

The Scripture that the truth would shine brighter and brighter unto the perfect day is sometimes interpreted to mean that truth does not change, but we do—that the truth is the truth, but our ability to see it changes (Prov. 4:18). To a certain extent this is true, but truth is as a light, and the path of the just is as a shining light that grows brighter and brighter.

Amos 3:8 The lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord GOD hath spoken, who can but prophesy?

The “lion” is God. “Who can but prophesy?” In other words, “How can we remain still?” As Christians, we have a responsibility to speak out. Jeremiah said the Lord’s Word was a burning  fire in his heart (Jer. 20:9). He had resolved to keep his mouth shut for a while, but he just could not.

Amos was speaking about himself and saying in effect, “The Lord has revealed His secret unto me, and I must prophesy.” Paul said, “Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel,” and “I have not shunned to declare … all the counsel of God” (1 Cor. 9:16; Acts 20:27).

Comment: Philippians 3:15 does not specifically pertain to prophecy, but it is along the lines of the same principle: “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing you be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.” In one way or another, God personally informs one who is not living up to his full responsibilities, but we must recognize His voice in order to get the lesson.

Amos 3:9 Publish in the palaces at Ashdod, and in the palaces in the land of Egypt, and say, Assemble yourselves upon the mountains of Samaria, and behold the great tumults in the midst thereof, and the oppressed in the midst thereof.

Amos 3:10 For they know not to do right, saith the LORD, who store up violence and robbery in their palaces.

Amos 3:11 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; An adversary there shall be even round about the land; and he shall bring down thy strength from thee, and thy palaces shall be spoiled.

Ashdod was the capital city of the Philistine territory.

What does the word “publish” in verse 9 signify? Amos asked a helper to go out and proclaim the message in Ashdod and in Egypt while he continued his message there in Israel. Jeremiah similarly had Baruk as a helper proclaiming his message in nine or so other nations. When King Zedekiah sent Seraiah, the chief priest, to Babylon as an emissary, Jeremiah instructed Seraiah to publicly throw a scroll in the Euphrates River. Therefore, “publish” does not mean that Amos went personally to Ashdod and Egypt but that he sent another to proclaim the message for him on the Lord’s behalf; that is, God commissioned Amos with the responsibility to see that these remarks were uttered in several leading cities (“palaces” plural) in Egypt and Ashdod. For example, the Philistine territory included Gaza, Ashdod, Ekron, and Ashkelon. Thus the message went forth in all—more or less—of the Philistine territory and Egypt. Proclaiming the message in several places prevented the ruling element from smothering the message.

The message to the Philistines and the Egyptians was, “Assemble yourselves upon the mountains of Samaria.” Why were they to assemble themselves on the mountains of the ten-tribe kingdom? They were to witness the sins and injustices of the Israelites and to see God’s judgments. When the ten tribes were threatened by Assyria, they looked to Egypt for help.

Although Egypt sent a large armed contingent to aid Israel in the threatening siege by Assyria, the ten tribes were defeated, and the Egyptians forsook Israel and returned to their homeland.

The bulk of the prophet’s message was that the ten tribes would be taken into captivity by Shalmaneser, the king of Assyria, and later by his successor, Sargon. The earlier Tiglath-pileser captivity was primarily of the 2 1/2 tribes on the far side of Jordan. Later the remaining 7 ½ tribes were taken into captivity by Shalmaneser. The Assyrian king Sennacherib threatened Judah but was eliminated as an enemy by a miraculous victory for Judah. Sennacherib fled for his life, and 185,000 Assyrians died overnight. Still later Nebuchadnezzar took the two-tribe kingdom captive, plus Ammon, Moab, etc. Thus the sequence was Tiglath-pilesar, the ministry of Amos, Shalmaneser, Sargon, Sennacherib, and Nebuchadnezzar. In the days of Amos, the Tiglath-pileser captivity had already taken place, for the prophet’s ministry occurred later when the 7 1/2 tribes were taken captive by Shalmaneser. Therefore, the purpose of Egypt’s assembling on the mountains of Samaria was to protect Israel, but Shalmaneser’s force was so overwhelming that the Egyptians fled back to Egypt.

In verse 11, the pronoun “he” was the king of Assyria, and “thee” would be Israel. “Thy strength” referred to the strength of the ten-tribe kingdom, and “thy palaces” meant the palaces of the ten-tribe kingdom. Israel’s relying on Egypt for help was unavailing.

Because of the nature of his message, Amos was well known in both Judah and Israel, although he prophesied basically to the ten tribes.

Amos 3:12 Thus saith the LORD; As the shepherd taketh out of the mouth of the lion two legs, or a piece of an ear; so shall the children of Israel be taken out that dwell in Samaria in the corner of a bed, and in Damascus in a couch.

Damascus was the capital of Syria. Assyria was larger than Syria and more distant, being an empire. When the Assyrian forces came down against Israel, with Syria there to help, the forces of Egypt and Ashdod forsook Israel. The king of Assyria utterly defeated Israel and Syria. Hence the “two legs” may be thought of as the northern kingdom (Samaria) and Syria (Damascus). These were two legs of a sheep, a corporate body. The “shepherd” (God) rescued the “two legs,” that is, just a remnant of each. The “ear” probably refers to the ten tribes because Amos prophesied primarily to the northern kingdom. In effect, Amos was saying that Samaria and Damascus and their inhabitants would be destroyed, and God, the Shepherd, would rescue a remnant of both. (Under the Law, a true shepherd risked his life to defend the flock, and to prove that he had tried to defend the sheep against a wolf or another predator, he had to bring back a piece of an ear, a leg, etc., as evidence.)

Comment: David told King Saul how he had slain a lion and a bear to protect a lamb (1 Sam. 17:34-37).

Comment: A spiritual shepherd of the Lord’s flock must prove to God that he has done his best to save the consecrated.

Reply: Yes, that is true, just as Jesus laid down his life for the flock.

Comment: A watchman must watch and warn.

Reply: Elders and other bishops of the soul have a responsibility to defend the Lord’s sheep to the extent possible under given circumstances.

“So shall the children of Israel be taken out.” Survivors (“a piece of an ear”) were taken captive to Assyria because God, the Shepherd, rescued them. And this will also be true of the Holy Remnant, who will be rescued at the time of Jacob’s Trouble.

In verse 12, what is common to both “a bed” and “a couch”? Both are a place of rest and are associated with leisure. Hence the bed and the couch are symbols of wealth, luxury, and the upper class. In other words, the upper class of Israel and Damascus would not escape judgment. All classes of society would receive judgment.

Q: For verse 12, the Revised Standard says the words “in Damascus” are uncertain in the Hebrew, and even the King James margin gives an alternate translation. Was the smallness of the remnant being emphasized?

A: No, the King James is correct in using “Damascus.” The KJV is an excellent translation on the whole—better than the modern translations. The RSV is basically a copy of the KJV but stated in modern words. The NIV is a copy of the RSV with words added and subtracted. The NIV and RSV are helpful, but the KJV is better overall.

Q: Why would God save Syria, the enemy of Israel?

A: At that time, Syria was more sympathetic to Israel. Under the Pentateuch, those who curse Israel will themselves receive a curse, and those who bless Israel will receive a blessing.

Amos 3:13 Hear ye, and testify in the house of Jacob, saith the Lord GOD, the God of hosts,

Amos 3:14 That in the day that I shall visit the transgressions of Israel upon him I will also visit the altars of Beth-el: and the horns of the altar shall be cut off, and fall to ground.

When the king of Assyria defeated the ten tribes and took the remnant captive, the false religion centered in Dan and Bethel ceased. “Horns” represent power whether on a true or a false altar. Cutting the horns off the altar symbolically demeaned the false religion and said in effect, “Where is your [false] god?”

Amos 3:15 And I will smite the winter house with the summer house; and the houses of ivory shall perish, and the great houses shall have an end, saith the LORD.

Not only would the general populace be taken captive, but also the rulership. Not only would the common houses be rifled and plundered, but those of the wealthy too. Only the wealthy could afford both a winter and a summer house. Herod had a couple of residences, one being at Masada.

King Ahab had a palace of ivory, meaning that his palace was filled with furniture made of ivory. “Out of the ivory palaces,” words of a hymn, refer to Jesus’ coming to this sin-cursed earth. Ivory is a symbol of wealth because of its rarity, beauty, and cleanliness. The term “great houses” also refers to the residences of the wealthy. The upper class would receive judgment.

(1994 Study Frank Shallieu)

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