Amos 5


‘Hear this word, Israel, this lament I take up concerning you: “Fallen is Virgin Israel, never to rise again, deserted in her own land, with no one to lift her up.” This is what the Sovereign LORD says to Israel: “Your city that marches out a thousand strong will have only a hundred left; your town that marches out a hundred strong will have only ten left.” Amos 5:1-3

A Lament And Call To Repentance

This chapter is a lamentation, the funeral song for Israel. Israel will fall and rise no more but this wasn’t to happen for some years yet but God speaks as though it has already taken place. This is because God is talking about His judgment. At the end of Israel’s prosperity during the reign of Jeroboam II, Amos came and proclaimed this prophecy of death.

‘Virgin Israel’ means that previously they had been unconquered but now they are going to fall never to rise, Revelation 18:2. 90% of the people are going to be wiped out.

‘This is what the LORD says to Israel: “Seek me and live; do not seek Bethel, do not go to Gilgal, do not journey to Beersheba. For Gilgal will surely go into exile, and Bethel will be reduced to nothing.” Seek the LORD and live, or he will sweep through the tribes of Joseph like a fire; it will devour them, and Bethel will have no one to quench it. There are those who turn justice into bitterness and cast righteousness to the ground. He who made the Pleiades and Orion, who turns midnight into dawn and darkens day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out over the face of the land—the LORD is his name.’ Amos 5:4-8

Here we read of a call to repentance. Even while God is saying He is going to destroy Israel, He calls to those who would follow Him to repent. He is still giving them a chance. He encourages the people to seek the Lord and abandon idolatry to live.

The centres of idolatry seem to be Bethel, Gilgal and Beersheba. Beersheba is in the Southern Kingdom, yet it is listed here and in Amos 8:14, for destruction. Beersheba had a long historical association, it was where Abraham had lived. Idolatry was the creation of an idea of a god after their own imagination and desires.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Jeroboam I pretended that it was too much for Israel to go up to Jerusalem; and yet Israel thought it not too much to go to the extremist point of Judah toward Idumea, perhaps four times as far south of Jerusalem, as Jerusalem lay from Bethel!’

The judgment is likened to fire, Deuteronomy 4:24 / Isaiah 10:17 / Lamentations 2:3. The House of Joseph is a phrase referring to the Northern Kingdom, Amos 5:15.

Justice and righteousness are being overturned which shows God’s ability to complete this justice. Some translations use the word, ‘Wormwood’ which was a bitter plant that was symbolic of the injustice that was in the society.

Pleiades and Orion were groups of stars used to indicate changes in the seasons, Genesis 1:26-27 / Job 9:9 / Job 38:31. God can change day into night, He can call for the sea to cover the land, which is possibly a reference to the flood of Noah when God poured down rain for forty days.

God is the Creator of all things, and so, higher than all He created. These statements show the transforming power of God’s judgment.

‘With a blinding flash he destroys the stronghold and brings the fortified city to ruin. There are those who hate the one who upholds justice in court and detest the one who tells the truth. You levy a straw tax on the poor and impose a tax on their grain. Therefore, though you have built stone mansions, you will not live in them; though you have planted lush vineyards, you will not drink their wine. For I know how many are your offenses and how great your sins. There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes and deprive the poor of justice in the courts. Therefore the prudent keep quiet in such times, for the times are evil.’ Amos 5:9-13

God is going to punish their unrighteousness.

Deane, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Here is an allusion to the flood and similar catastrophes, which are proofs of God’s judicial government of the universe, when, ‘he maketh his creature his weapon for the revenge of his enemies.’ God doeth all these marvellous things, and men presume to scout his law and think to be unpunished.’

Some versions refer to the ‘gate’, the NIV says ‘court’, but they mean the same. The gate of the city was where people gathered for judgment to be made.

They hated the one who reproves in court, they hated a righteous judge, and they despised those who spoke the truth. They oppressed the poor and warns that those who have become rich through oppression will not live in their mansions made of stone or drink wine from their vineyards. They maintained their luxurious lifestyle by exploiting the poor.

God knows their many sins, He knows what they are doing, taking bribes and turning aside from the needy. The poor who weren’t able to pay any bribes didn’t receive any justice.

Wolfe, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Usually, the last stand of respectability in a declining nation is found in her judiciary. With the degeneration of Israel’s legal machinery, the fate of the nation seemed certain.’

He says, if they are disturbed about what is going on, they should keep their mouth shut. They should keep silent as they waited on the vengeance of God. When the Northern Kingdom was destroyed by the Assyrians, the rich and their possessions were taken and the poor were left in the land to care for the land.

‘Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the LORD God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph.’ Amos 5:14-15

They are now encouraged to seek good, not evil, then they will live, that is, God will be with them. they are to hate evil, love good, and make sure that the courts maintain justice.

McFadden, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The root of the social problem, as some one has said, is not defective social arrangement, but sin and no fundamental improvement can be affected by a change in the environment, but only by a change in the men.’

After Tiglath-Pileser swept through the Northern Kingdom in 732-31 B.C., he left only a remnant of Ephraim in the land. The remnant was the poor who were to farm the land for the Assyrians.

‘Therefore this is what the Lord, the LORD God Almighty, says: “There will be wailing in all the streets and cries of anguish in every public square. The farmers will be summoned to weep and the mourners to wail. There will be wailing in all the vineyards, for I will pass through your midst,” says the LORD.’ Amos 5:16-17

This is an announcement of the judgment and the effects. There will be wailing, mourning and lamentation when God passes through their midst, Exodus 12:12.

The dead would be so prevalent that the farmers would be called to mourn over their dead relatives in the cities. The professional mourners would be hired to lament both death and destruction, Jeremiah 9:17-18 / Matthew 9:23.

The Day Of The LORD

‘Woe to you who long for the day of the LORD! Why do you long for the day of the LORD? That day will be darkness, not light. It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him. Will not the day of the LORD be darkness, not light—pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?’ Amos 5:18-20

Here we read of a message of woe. The first three messages began, ‘hear this’, and the fifth message begin, ‘woe to you’.

Israel thought of the Day of the Lord as the time when God would judge their enemies, not that it would be applicable to them. But this is a warning that they too will face that judgment.

There is no escape, if they avoid one danger, it will only be to be faced with another. The wicked of Israel were caught in a trap. If he flees from a lion, he will meet a bear. If he flees from the bear and thinks he is safe in his house, he will confront a snake. The Day of the Lord won’t be day-light, it will be darkness, pitch-darkness.

‘I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! “Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings forty years in the wilderness, people of Israel? You have lifted up the shrine of your king, the pedestal of your idols, the star of your god—which you made for yourselves. Therefore I will send you into exile beyond Damascus,” says the LORD, whose name is God Almighty.’ Amos 5:21-27

God despises their feasts, their sacrifices and their assemblies, Leviticus 26:31. He won’t accept their burnt and grain offerings, He has no regard for them. They are simply an outward show that has no meaning. These would be their annual festivals, with the associated times of worship.

Their singing was also rejected by God. The worship that took place at Bethel and Dan was based on the temple worship in Jerusalem, but it had been corrupted.

The form of worship was the same. The same festivals were remembered. And they worshipped God. But they didn’t worship Him in the way they should have done, John 4:24.

They didn’t worship Him alone, they worshipped other gods as well. Jeroboam I soon after the kingdom divided set up golden calves to worship in Bethel and Dan.

God says, let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! There are two views as to what this means.

1. Justice and righteousness seem to refer to the flooding of the land with the judgement and righteousness of God.

This is God’s judgment coming in a flood because of their false worship, Isaiah 10:22.

2. The people are being called to replace their idolatrous worship with justice and righteousness.

The people had been guilty of idolatry from the time of their wilderness wanderings. They had not worshipped in the way God wanted them to.

Verse 26 has been a difficult verse for the translators. Various names are mentioned, which seem to be the names of idols.

RSV ‘Sakkuth Kaiman.’

AV ‘Moloch Chiun.’

NIV ‘Shrine of your king pedestal of your idols.’

They all refer to the idolatry of Israel, idols which they had made for themselves. They had transferred worship that was due to God to these idols, Acts 7:42-43. All this idolatry will have consequences, they will go into exile beyond Damascus, which refers to Assyria.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The terrible consequences of rebellion against God grew steadily worse. Injustice, crime, and immorality of all degrees soon led to complete anarchy in the land. In 722-721 B.C., the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom were subjugated by the Assyrian king and the people were deported to Assyria never to return as a nation.’

Go To Amos 6