Amos 3

Introduction

‘Hear this word, people of Israel, the word the LORD has spoken against you—against the whole family I brought up out of Egypt: “You only have I chosen of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your sins.” Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so? Does a lion roar in the thicket when it has no prey? Does it growl in its den when it has caught nothing? Does a bird swoop down to a trap on the ground when no bait is there? Does a trap spring up from the ground if it has not caught anything? When a trumpet sounds in a city, do not the people tremble? When disaster comes to a city, has not the LORD caused it? Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets. The lion has roared—who will not fear? The Sovereign LORD has spoken—who can but prophesy?’ Amos 3:1-8

Witnesses Summoned Against Israel

The first three of the five condemnations begin with the words, ‘hear this word’, Amos 4:1 / Amos 5:1. The last two begin with the phrase, ‘woe to you who’, Amos 5:18 / Amos 6:1.

The first message here is a message from the Lord against Israel, 2 Chronicles 36:16 / Isaiah 1:2-4. This would also include Judah, ‘the family I brought up out of Egypt’. But the message is primarily for Israel. As God’s people, they should have known better, so He warns them that He will punish them.

The rest of the verses are a series of rhetorical questions, that is, the answers are implied in the questions. ‘Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so? Does a bird fall into a trap on the ground where no snare has been set?’

The lesson, for instance, two people can walk together if they have agreed to do so, but if one, that is, Israel, breaks that covenant, how can they walk? A bird will only go into a trap if the bait is set, it can’t be trapped if the snare isn’t set, Jeremiah 2:35. Israel’s fall to the ground meant that they were caught in their own trap of sin.

No calamity befalls a city unless the Lord has caused it. No true prophet speaks unless by divine revelation. Israel had rejected the pleas of God through the prophets to follow after His commandments, Amos 2:4 / Amos 7:10-13.

God was the lion who roared through the prophets that turn Israel from their sin, Amos 1:1 / Joel 3:16. People tremble in a city when the trumpet sounds and so, He warns the people before He acts in judgment. God’s message through Amos is likened to the lion’s roar.

Motyer, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The only view of history that the Bible espouses is that the Lord is the Great Agent. Behind every event stands a cause, behind all history stands the Lord, Isaiah 45:5-7. Maybe thus they will prepare themselves for his future acts of judgment.’

God doesn’t do anything without first revealing His will, in other words, God would bring no judgment on His people unless He first warned them.

God warned them through His prophets, but they rejected what they said, Amos 2:12.

‘Proclaim to the fortresses of Ashdod and to the fortresses of Egypt: “Assemble yourselves on the mountains of Samaria; see the great unrest within her and the oppression among her people.” “They do not know how to do right,” declares the LORD, “who store up in their fortresses what they have plundered and looted.” Amos 3:9-10

Ashdod, that is, Assyria and Egypt are summoned to Samaria to witness the unrest and oppression, that is, their treatment of the poor. The wickedness of Israel rivals the wickedness of Ashdod and Egypt.

They don’t know how to do right, Hosea 4:6, and they stored up goods in their strongholds. As a result of not knowing God and His ways, they made up their own values and behaved in such a way to please their own desires.

‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “An enemy will overrun your land, pull down your strongholds and plunder your fortresses.” This is what the LORD says: “As a shepherd rescues from the lion’s mouth only two leg bones or a piece of an ear, so will the Israelites living in Samaria be rescued, with only the head of a bed and a piece of fabric from a couch.” “Hear this and testify against the descendants of Jacob,” declares the Lord, the LORD God Almighty. “On the day I punish Israel for her sins, I will destroy the altars of Bethel; the horns of the altar will be cut off and fall to the ground. I will tear down the winter house along with the summer house; the houses adorned with ivory will be destroyed and the mansions will be demolished,” declares the LORD.’ Amos 3:11-15

Here we read that an enemy will overrun the land, they will pull down their strongholds and plunder their fortresses. The severity of this is likened to a lion’s attack on a sheep, Exodus 22:13.

‘Only two leg bones or a piece of an ear remain’, may suggest that a small remnant remains, or that God has done everything that He can and they will be destroyed. The descendants of Jacob will also receive judgment, which means both the Northern and the Southern Kingdoms will be judged by God.

We read of the judgment upon Bethel. Bethel was one of the centres of worship in Israel, 1 Kings 12:25-33, where Jeroboam sets up golden calves for sacrifice at Bethel and Dan after the division of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah.

The altars will be destroyed, and the horns, 1 Kings 2:28, a symbol of power or sanctuary, of the altar will be cut off. It shows that the centre of worship will be destroyed. This is the devastation of their idolatry and the punishment of their transgressions.

Samaria, the capital of the Northern Kingdom will be surrounded, and when it finally falls, the royal palaces, 1 Kings 22:39, will be plundered and the city itself will be totally destroyed.

Mays, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The judgment which Amos announces is no ascetic primitivism, growing out of simple hostility against a commercial culture and its influence. The houses were built beam by beam, and stone by stone, from a store of crimes.’

The judgment which Amos is speaking about eventually happened a few years later when Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, brought down Samaria, and so, also brought an end to the Northern Kingdom, 2 Kings 17:5-6.

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