AMOS

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Today we begin the study of the prophet Amos.  His fuller name was probably Amasiah (2 Chron17:16).  Amos immediately preceded Hosea as a prophet to the Northern Kingdom.   We probably should have studied him first.  Hosea’s message was to a nation on an irreversible road to destruction.  Hosea is with the people when the final invasion of Assyria takes place in 722 BC.  He tried to warn the people, and especially the leadership of the nation that their doom was ahead if they did not quickly return to the Lord, but they would not listen.

 

Amos was a prophet ahead of Hosea and he had a similar message, but the final fall was not as imminent.  Amos was a shepherd, not a learned priest or member of the upper society, but he had eyes to see the geopolitical situation developing around him, and was called by God to prophesy to the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  He however, lived in the Southern Kingdom, just outside of Bethlehem and just 6 miles south of Jerusalem.   He was a shepherd as we see in the opening verse of the prophecy.  The word used for shepherd signifies a breeder of livestock.  He also probably owned orchards of figs as we note in 7:14.  We could consider him a middle class Jew, living a comfortable life, until God spoke to him and called him.  He was up on the political issues of the day, and was well instructed in the teaching of the Torah.  His heart was sensitive to the call of God.

 

His prophecies are given between 790-750 BC at a time when both Israel and Judah are at heights of prosperity and peace.  He may or may not have known Hosea.  Hosea’s ministry started around 10 years after Amos, around 740 BC.  He must have heard Amos’s teaching as he was growing up.  By 722 BC, Israel will be destroyed by the rising political power of Assyria, in part for not heeding the words of the prophets such as Amos and Hosea.  (See 2 Kings 14-15, and 2 Chron 26-27 for the historic context)   In Amos’s day there was still time for the nation to repent and return to the true worship of YHWH, and avoid the Assyrian invasion.   

 

Amos’s day was one of affluence.  Mammon ruled.  The rich lived ostentations lives.  The women lived for excitement and leisure.  The rulers set the example for the people and did not deny themselves any bodily pleasure.  But there was also great poverty.  The poor were very poor and the well-to-do did not pay them any heed.  They were shamelessly exploited and were defenseless.  But the people were still very religious.  They offered mouth worship to Jehovah, but they also worshipped the Baals.  Jeroboam I had set up shrines to Baal in Bethel and Dan, and these permitted sexual indulgence to flourish and public standards of morality to reach a low ebb.  Amos had a real challenge to reach this self indulgent society.

 

Time-wise we could consider these words as given to us as a nation in the 1950-2000 AD range.  This was the era of Billy Graham.  Could he have been our Amos?  Who might be our Hosea today?  Can we as a nation respond to the Word of God any longer, or we past that point?  ‘The Glory of God on Cape Cod’ is praying faithfully for revival here on the Cape that could spread to the rest of the land.

1:1 The words of Amos, who was among the shepherds of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.

 

We know pretty precisely the years of Amos’s ministry.  Uzziah was king of Judah from 792-740 BC.  He was also known as Azariah.  Jeroboam II ruled Israel from 793 to 753 BC.  There was peace in the region for most of this time, and both Israel and Judah became quite wealthy due the peace and to their location on the trade routes between Africa and the Mid-east.  Assyria was growing in power, but had not considered invading the Levant and Egypt yet.  Unfortunately we do not know the date of the earthquake.  Incidentally Isaiah began his ministry to the Southern Kingdom the year Uzziah died, 940 BC.

 

 

Judgment on Israel's Neighbors

 

All nations fall under God’s judgment.  They may be without special revelation, but are not without moral responsibility; they may be without direct knowledge of the God of the Bible, but they are not without accountability to God; they may not have the written Law and the stone tablets as do the Jews and we Christians, but they are not without the law written in their consciences.

 

1:2 And he said: “The LORD roars from Zion

and utters his voice from Jerusalem;

the pastures of the shepherds mourn,

and the top of Carmel withers.”

 

Amos realizes his message is from God, and God is not pleased.  He likens himself to a roaring lion, able to tear the nation into pieces.  Aslan is also a lion, one who gives up his life for his people.

 

1:3-5 Thus says the LORD:

“For three transgressions of Damascus,

and for four, I will not revoke the punishment,

because they have threshed Gilead

with threshing sledges of iron.

 

 So I will send a fire upon the house of Hazael,

and it shall devour the strongholds of Ben-hadad.

 

I will break the gate-bar of Damascus,

and cut off the inhabitants from the Valley of Aven,

and him who holds the scepter from Beth-eden;

and the people of Syria shall go into exile to Kir,”

says the LORD.

Damascus is Syria.  Gilead is on the Golan Heights, part of Syria today.  It had been part of Israel, but was invaded by Syria, which itself was part of Israel under Solomon.  God appointed Hazael through Elijah to be king in Syria (1 Kings 19:15-16).  But he becomes a thorn in Israel’s side, and there was war between them continually (1 Kings 20, 2 Kings 13).  The Valley of Aven was the Valley of Wickedness, a center of sun worship in Syria, and probably a popular retreat for the people.

 

 

1:6-8 Thus says the LORD:

“For three transgressions of Gaza,

and for four, I will not revoke the punishment,

because they carried into exile a whole people

to deliver them up to Edom.

 

 So I will send a fire upon the wall of Gaza,

and it shall devour her strongholds.

 

 I will cut off the inhabitants from Ashdod,

and him who holds the scepter from Ashkelon;

I will turn my hand against Ekron,

and the remnant of the Philistines shall perish,”

says the Lord GOD.

 

Gaza is east of Judah, along the Mediterranean coast.  It was the land of the Philistines.  Ashdod was its capital city, and Ekron was one of the cities where the Philistines took the Ark when they captured it from the Israelites (1 Sam. 5 10-12).   Gaza was a center for slave trade and human trafficking.

We know Gaza today as the Gaza strip, and a major stronghold of the Palestinians.

 

 

1:9-10 Thus says the LORD:

“For three transgressions of Tyre,

and for four, I will not revoke the punishment,

because they delivered up a whole people to Edom,

and did not remember the covenant of brotherhood.

So I will send a fire upon the wall of Tyre,

and it shall devour her strongholds.”

 

Tyre was an ancient Phoenician city and it was a major trading center.  The people were Canaanites.  They were a very proud people and considered themselves ‘perfect in beauty’ (Ezekiel 27:3).   Ezekiel commits three chapters, 26-28, prophesying against Tyre.

The capital City was built on an Island in the Mediterranean and was considered invulnerable.  It was also a center for the slave trade.  It was defeated by Alexander the Great in 332 BC.  He built a causeway through the sea to reach its walls, and thus was able to attack and conquer it.   It is the fourth largest city in Lebanon today.

1:11-12 Thus says the LORD:

“For three transgressions of Edom,

and for four, I will not revoke the punishment,

because he pursued his brother with the sword

and cast off all pity,

and his anger tore perpetually,

and he kept his wrath forever.

So I will send a fire upon Teman,

and it shall devour the strongholds of Bozrah.”

 

Edom was the land of the descendants of Esau.  There was constant conflict between Israel and Edom, that is between the two brothers Jacob and Esau.  (The Mid-east wars now are battles between Jews/Christians and Muslims, that is the two sons of Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael.)

Both Gaza and Tyre supplied Edom with Israelite slaves.  The ancient city, Petra, is in Edom.

 

2 Kings 8:20 -23 20 In his days Edom revolted from the rule of Judah and set up a king of their own.  Then Joram passed over to Zair with all his chariots and rose by night, and he and his chariot commanders struck the Edomites who had surrounded him, but his army fled home.  So Edom revolted from the rule of Judah to this day. Then Libnah revolted at the same time. 

 

 Psalm 137:7 7 Remember, O LORD, against the Edomites

the day of Jerusalem,

how they said, “Lay it bare, lay it bare,

down to its foundations!”

 

1:13-15 Thus says the LORD:

“For three transgressions of the Ammonites,

and for four, I will not revoke the punishment,

because they have ripped open pregnant women in Gilead,

that they might enlarge their border.

 

So I will kindle a fire in the wall of Rabbah,

and it shall devour her strongholds,

with shouting on the day of battle,

with a tempest in the day of the whirlwind;

and their king shall go into exile,

he and his princes together,” says the LORD.

 

The Ammonites are the children of Lot by his younger daughter.

Genesis 19:36-38 Thus both the daughters of Lot became pregnant by their father.  The firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab.  He is the father of the Moabites to this day. The younger also bore a son and called his name Ben-ammi.  He is the father of the Ammonites to this day.

The Ammonites were continually thorns in the side of Israel.  The complaint here is because of the cruel and vicious invasion of Gilead, with the hope of enlarging their territory.  Gilead was good farmland everyone seemed to want.  Many medicinals were produced there, possibly from aloe. Jeremiah speaks of the ‘balm in Gilead’ (Jeremiah 8:22, 46:11).

 

2:1-3 Thus says the LORD:

“For three transgressions of Moab,

and for four, I will not revoke the punishment,

because he burned to lime

the bones of the king of Edom.

 

So I will send a fire upon Moab,

and it shall devour the strongholds of Kerioth,

and Moab shall die amid uproar,

amid shouting and the sound of the trumpet;

I will cut off the ruler from its midst,

and will kill all its princes with him,”

says the LORD.

 

God likens his judgment to fire.  It is not necessarily physical fire, but it is all consuming like fire.  It usually means warfare, occupation and destruction.  

 

Moab was the son through Lot’s first daughter.  Moab was across the Dead Sea to the east of Judah, north of Edom and south of Ammon.  The Moabites tempted Israel with sexual sin when they were about to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 25).  Elimelech’s family went to Moab during a famine in Israel.  One of his sons married a Moabite woman, Ruth, who later returned to Judah with Naomi, her mother-in-law, and became a part of the Messianic line.  Later David sent his parents to Moab to protect them from King Saul.  Chemosh was the god of the Moabites, and Molech was the abomination of Ammon.  There was continuing war between Moab and Israel, sometimes one side winning and sometimes the other.

 

Judgment on Judah

 

2:4-5 Thus says the LORD:

“For three transgressions of Judah,

and for four, I will not revoke the punishment,

because they have rejected the law of the LORD,

and have not kept his statutes,

but their lies have led them astray,

those after which their fathers walked.

So I will send a fire upon Judah,

and it shall devour the strongholds of Jerusalem.”

 

 Judah’s end is still about 140 years away.  But it will come if Judah does not repent and forsake her evil ways.  But she is engaging in the practices Israel is being judged for.  She is following the path of all nations that become overly rich.   Worship is in form only, and not from the heart.  The wealthy are neglecting the poor.  They are living a lie and like it so.

Jeremiah describes their condition in Jeremiah 6:10-18.

 

To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear

Behold, their ears are uncircumcised, they cannot listen;

behold, the word of the LORD is to them an object of scorn;

they take no pleasure in it.

 

Therefore I am full of the wrath of the LORD;

I am weary of holding it in.

 

“Pour it out upon the children in the street,

and upon the gatherings of young men, also;

both husband and wife shall be taken, the elderly and the very aged.

 

Their houses shall be turned over to others, their fields and wives together,

for I will stretch out my hand against the inhabitants of the land,”

declares the LORD.

 

“For from the least to the greatest of them,

everyone is greedy for unjust gain;

and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely.

 

They have healed the wound of my people lightly,

saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.

 

Were they ashamed when they committed abomination?

No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush.

Therefore they shall fall among those who fall;

at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,”

says the LORD.

 

Thus says the LORD:

“Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths,

where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.

But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

 

I set watchmen over you, saying,

‘Pay attention to the sound of the trumpet!’

But they said, ‘We will not pay attention.’

Therefore hear, O nations, 

and know, O congregation, what will happen to them.