STUDY FIVE: AMOS 4:1 – 13

© Rosemary Bardsley 2021

In chapter 4 Amos addresses his messages to the heartless, wealthy women of Israel. He announces God’s judgement. He then addresses Israel more generally, firstly referring to their false religion, and secondly recounting successive disciplinary judgements that God had already brought upon the land, and which the Israelites did not heed. Because they did not respond to these disciplinary judgements the greater judgement must fall.

Read the chapter. What do you learn about -
What the women were doing (v1)

 

What has God determined to do to them (v2, 3)

 

The religious practices Israel was involved in (v4, 5)

 

The corrective/disciplinary judgements God had already brought upon them (v6 – 11)

 

 

Their response to those preliminary judgements (v6 – 11)

 

The certainty of the judgement Amos was warning them of (v12)

 

The identity of the God whom they had rejected and sinned against (v13).

 

Verse 1 – ‘cows of Bashan’: Adam Clarke comments: ‘Such an address was quite natural from the herdsman of Tekoa. Bashan was famous for the fertility of its soil, and its flocks and herds; and the prophet here represents the iniquitous, opulent, idle, lazy drones, whether men or women, under the idea of fatted bullocks, which were shortly to be led out to the slaughter.’

[Note: The word translated ‘cows’ is feminine, meaning ‘cows’ as distinct from ‘bulls’. (The term ‘bulls of Bashan’ is used in Psalm 22:12.) Even so, some Bible teachers, as Adam Clarke above, understand the term to refer to either men or women or both. The NIV assumes that women are meant, and therefore reads ‘say to your husbands’ rather than ‘say to your masters’ later in the verse.]

Verse 1 - ‘Samaria’: Amos here calls on the wealthy women of Samaria to hear what he is about to say. ‘Samaria’ was both the capital city of the northern kingdom, and the mountainous area surrounding it.

About the city:

It was built by Omri, the sixth king of the northern kingdom, and established as the capital (1Kings 16:24).

King Ahab, son of Omri, built a temple of Baal in Samaria, and also built there an altar for the worship of Baal, and an Asherah pole (1Kings 13:32, 33).

Even its prophets prophesied by Baal, leading its people astray (Jeremiah 23:13).

Its sins made it ripe for judgement (Micah 1:5 – 7).

Jehoash, one of its kings, ransacked Jerusalem, and took all the gold and silver and articles found in the temple and in the royal treasuries in Jerusalem, back to Samaria (2Kings 14:11 – 14).

About the region of ‘Samaria’, including the city:

It was in ‘Samaria’ that both Elijah and Elisha did the bulk of their ministry.

Samaria, in its idolatry and in its alliances with pagan nations, is likened to a prostitute (Ezekiel 23:4 – 10).

Samaria, like the rest of the northern kingdom, was engulfed by their sins (Hosea 7:1,2).

Verse 1 - the accusations: Amos’ accusations against them relate to -

Their heartless attitude to the poor and needy – they oppress the poor and crush the needy. Because they were rich they had the means to actually help the poor and needy, but they did the opposite, in direct disregard of both God’s commands and God’s character.

Right through the Old Testament we read of God’s concern for the poor and needy, and his commands that his people express similar concern. Failure to keep these commands incurs his judgement.

Read these verses. What do they instruct us about the right attitude to the poor and needy?
Exodus 22:22, 24

Exodus 23:6

Deuteronomy 10:18

Deuteronomy 14:29

Deuteronomy 15:7 – 11

 

Deuteronomy 24:12 – 22

 

Deuteronomy 26:12, 13

 

Their self-indulgence, which possibly included arrogance. Amos is doing more than simply listing a second offence. This second offence connects with the first:

The second reveals the extent of their heartless unconcern for the poor.

The second, an expression of their wealth, was at least in part, dependent on their ruthless treatment of the poor (remember 2:6).

They sound very similar to those in Judah condemned by Isaiah – ‘heroes at drinking wine and champions at mixing drinks’ but acquitting the guilty for a bribe and denying justice to the innocent – Isaiah 5:22, 23.

Verse 2, 3 – the warning of judgement: Amos’ warning is backed by God’s oath: ‘The Sovereign LORD has sworn by his holiness’. In his holiness he cannot tolerate the wickedness of these heartless, self-indulgent women. He hates their mistreatment of the poor and needy. And he hates the absence of faith that has produced that heartlessness. In his holiness, in his righteousness, he is bound to punish them. To not punish would be to act contrary to his holiness. Because he is who he is – the Holy One – the punishment must come.

The fate of these women is specified, and it involves a complete reversal of their present luxury, position and arrogance. Jamieson-Fausset-Brown comment:

‘As fish are taken out of the water by hooks, so the Israelites are to be taken out of their cities by the enemy. The image is the more appropriate, as ancient captives were led by their conquerors by a hook made to pass through the nose, as is to be seen in the Assyrian remains.’

Verse 4, 5 – syncretism: Syncretism is the blending of two belief systems. This is what had happened in the northern kingdom, Israel, from its beginning under Jeroboam I.

Check these historical facts in the verses listed:
[1] When Jeroboam I set up the rival worship in the newly divided Israel, he combined idolatry and the God who outlawed idolatry - 1Kings 12:28

[2] He incorporated into his rival religion various aspects of the covenant rituals that God gave to Moses – priests, festivals, sacrifices, altar - 1Kings 12:31 – 33; 13:33;

[3] He situated his rival worship/religion at various places previously associated with the worship of the true God. Here Amos mentions two of them:

Bethel: 1Kings 12:29, 32, 33; Genesis 12:8; 13:3,4; 38:16 – 22; 31:13; 35:1 – 7

Gilgal: Joshua 4:19 – 24; 5:9 – 12; 1Samuel 11:14, 15;

But engaging in worship and rituals that mimic the true worship and the God-ordained rituals does not validate the worship or the rituals.

Read these verses to learn of God’s warning of judgement on what was going on at Bethel immediately after Jeroboam established syncretism there, and the implementation of that judgement some time after Amos’s prophecy:
1Kings 13: 1 - 5

 

2Kings 23:15, 16 (this occurred in the reign of Josiah, king of Judah, 640 – 609 BC)

 

Verses 6 – 11 – ‘yet you have not returned to me’. In these verses we read of five different expressions of temporary, micro judgements that God sent upon the northern kingdom. God’s intention in sending these physical disasters was to correct, to discipline, but also to expose the falseness of their ‘faith’. The fact, repeated five times, that they did not return to the LORD, is evidence that, generally as a nation, they had rejected him in a final way. They simply were not interested in putting aside their idols and their false worship and returning to him, the one true God.

Verses 12, 13 – ‘prepare to meet your God’. In these two verses God describes himself and his actions.

What do these phrases mean? And, how are they relevant to you personally?
‘your God’

 

‘who forms the mountains, creates the wind’

 

‘reveals his thoughts to man’

 

‘turns dawn to darkness’

 

‘treads the high places of the earth’

 

‘the LORD God Almighty is his name’

 

Verse 13 – ‘the LORD God Almighty is his name’. Amos refers to God by this title nine times. ‘LORD’, as we have seen, is the self-identifying name – I AM – that God revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:14. ‘God’ is the usual word for ‘God’ – elohim. ‘Almighty’, sometimes translated ‘of hosts’, or ‘of the armies’. It refers to God’s almighty power and authority. Amos uses it to indicate both the foolishness of following any other ‘god’, and the utter certainty that God has both the authority and ability to bring about the judgements of which he is warning the Israelites.

 

REFLECTION
What have you learned about God from this study – who he is and what he does?

 

 

What have you learned about the right human response to God?

 

 

What have you learned about the wrong human response to God?

 

 

What have you learned about right and wrong treatment of your fellow humans?

 

 

Where are you positioned, personally, regarding the previous three questions?