Amos 4

Introduction

‘Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy and say to your husbands, “Bring us some drinks!” The Sovereign LORD has sworn by his holiness: “The time will surely come when you will be taken away with hooks, the last of you with fishhooks. You will each go straight out through breaches in the wall, and you will be cast out toward Harmon,” declares the LORD.’ Amos 4:1-3

Israel Has Not Returned To God

We can divide this chapter into two halves.

1. Social and religious corruption.

This chapter begins with a judgment on the women, ‘you cows of Bashan’. We have mention of Bashan in the Song of Moses, Deuteronomy 32:14, and the Psalmist says, ‘many bulls surround me, strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.’ Psalm 22:12.

This area of Bashan had rich, pastureland which was good for cattle, Numbers 32. It was situated on the east of the Jordan. The women were being compared with them.

They are intolerant and aggressive towards their husbands. These rich women appeared to have been pressuring their husbands into providing for them a luxurious lifestyle.

They oppressed their husbands to exploit the poor in order that they are able to enjoy great wealth in luxuriant living, Isaiah 3:16-4:1.

McFadden, in his commentary, says the following.

‘All of the Hebrew prophets knew that for the temper and quality of civilization the women are greatly responsible. A country is largely what its women make it; if they are cruel or careless or unwomanly, the country is on the road to ruin.’

The holiness of God has been offended and so, God is going to act in judgment against them. the judgment pictured here is of captives being led away by cords attached to rings in their lips.

They are taken into captivity through the breaks in the wall. The walls will be broken down and the captives led out through them. During the destruction of Samaria, the dead bodies of the rich and famous are going to be dragged away to a rubbish pile of corpses for burning.

The meaning of Harmon is unknown.

‘Go to Bethel and sin; go to Gilgal and sin yet more. Bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three years. Burn leavened bread as a thank offering and brag about your freewill offerings—boast about them, you Israelites, for this is what you love to do,” declares the Sovereign LORD.’ Amos 4:4-5

Here we read about the religious corruption. The false religion in Israel was the cause of social corruption. There is sarcasm in the language being used by God here.

Bethel is mentioned as a place of worship but it is for golden calves. Gilgal must also have been a centre of false worship, Hosea 4:15 / Hosea 9:15. In the zealousness of their religion, they were actually increasing the call for judgment to come upon them.

The outcome of their religion is a multiplication of transgressions, they bring their false sacrifices every morning. They are making a public show, boasting about their offerings, making it an outward display. They were burning leavened bread which was contrary to the law, Exodus 23:18 / Leviticus 2:11 / Leviticus 7:11-12.

God was angry because he had laid down laws for the Israelites to follow. Time and time again He had forgiven them, and accepted their repentance. Yet they continued to do things contrary to His will. Perhaps they considered there was no harm in burning the leavened bread, it seemed such a small point.

Don’t we say the same today? Don’t we ignore what God says sometimes because ‘this is what we love to do’? What does it matter, it is only a small point? What, I wonder, will God say? When God tells us to do certain things, what right have we to decide that our way seems better so we will do it our way?

‘I gave you empty stomachs in every city and lack of bread in every town, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the LORD. “I also withheld rain from you when the harvest was still three months away. I sent rain on one town, but withheld it from another. One field had rain; another had none and dried up. 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. “Many times I struck your gardens and vineyards, destroying them with blight and mildew. Locusts devoured your fig and olive trees, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the LORD. “I sent plagues among you as I did to Egypt. I killed your young men with the sword, along with your captured horses. I filled your nostrils with the stench of your camps, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the LORD. “I overthrew some of you as I overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. You were like a burning stick snatched from the fire, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the LORD. ‘Therefore this is what I will do to you, Israel, and because I will do this to you, Israel, prepare to meet your God.” He who forms the mountains, who creates the wind, and who reveals his thoughts to mankind, who turns dawn to darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth—the LORD God Almighty is his name.’ Amos 4:6-13

2. We have seven warnings here sent by God to the people.

God, over the years, tried to get His people to obey His commands but they refused to listen, they were then punished to bring about their repentance, but still, they didn’t respond. God sent prophets to them but still, they wouldn’t listen.

1. Famine. I gave you empty stomachs, some versions use the words, ‘cleanness of teeth’ and lack of bread.

2. Drought. The rains before the harvest were being withheld, just when the crops needed it most.

3. Mildew. God struck the gardens and vineyards with blight and mildew, Deuteronomy 28:22.

4. Locusts. They devoured your fig and olive trees.

5. Pestilence, epidemic. I sent plagues among you as I did to Egypt.

6. War. I killed your young men with the sword, I filled your nostrils with the stench of death.

7. Earthquake. I overthrew you as I overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, Ezekiel 16:47ff. You were like a burning stick snatched from the fire.

All of these warnings had one aim, to bring the people back to God. But each one ends in the same way. I did these things so that you would change your ways, but still ‘you have not returned to me’, says the LORD, Amos 4:6 / Amos 4:8-10 / Amos 4:12.

Because these warnings have not been heeded, there will be no more warnings, only judgment. God says, ‘I will bring destruction upon you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel’.

The LORD God Almighty has issued His last warning. The God who formed the mountains, created the winds, revealed his thoughts to man, who turns dawn to darkness, who treads the high places of the earth, He has spoken. Someone has said that this is ‘God’s signature on Israel’s death warrant’.

Smith, in his commentary, says the following, concerning verse 13.

‘There is very little agreement among scholars as to the origin of this verse and the reason for its being placed where it is. Of course, if one accepts the tradition that Amos wrote all of this book, just as we have it, there can be no problem here except a difficulty in understanding why he put a hymn of praise immediately after an announcement of terrible judgment.’

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