Amos 3:7-15

January 20, 2007 at 1:30 am (Uncategorized)

Vs 7 Certainly the Lord God does nothing without revealing his plans to his servants the prophets.

In
order to keep the people on the straight and narrow, and to ensure that
they did not forget him and commit idolatry, God had, through Moses,
promised the people that he would raise up prophets to guide and
instruct them (see Deut 18:9-22). Recall, however, that the people of
the Northern Kingdom had rejected the prophets sent to them (see Amos
2:12). The people therefore are without excuse: “for if any man will not listen to my words which the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will make him answer for it.” (Deut 18:19).

Vs 8 A lion has roared-who does not fear? The Lord God has spoken-who does not prophecy?

The
reference to a lion roaring recalls the keynote verse in 1:2. There we
saw that God, the shepherd of his flock, Israel, had become their worst
nightmare. Like a lion with its prey he had roared (see 3:4) and there
was drought upon the land. Not only was he roaring through natural
calamities, but also through his prophets-who will not be afraid?
As will be seen in 4:6-11, the people were apparently not afraid. As
will be seen in Amos 7:12-13, they will seek to silence the prophecies
of Amos, but to no avail.

A prophetic threat proclaimed 3:9-12

Vs
9 Proclaim this in the strongholds of Ashdod, likewise in the
strongholds of the land of Egypt, saying: “gather yourselves upon the
mountain of Samaria, witness the great upheavals within her, and the
oppression in the midst of her.”

Vs 10 For they do not know how to do what is right, says the Lord, treasuring in their strongholds extortion and theft.

During the reign of Omri, Samaria
became the capitol of the Northern Kingdom, as such it could stand as a
name for the entire kingdom, and such is the case here. As we have
seen, the leaders of Israelite society had become corrupt, greedy, and
oppressive towards the poor (2:6-8). Also, they had rejected the
prophets and the nazarites (2:11-12), no doubt because these people
troubled their already guilty consciences.

God tells the prophet to proclaim to the pagan stronghold (i.e. fortified city) of Ashdod and to the strongholds in the pagan nation of Egypt that they are to gather and witness the sins which Samaria/Israel has stored up in her strongholds.

There is intense irony here. In telling the prophet to “Proclaim” something to the pagans God uses the Hebrew word shama
(shaw-mah) in what is known as its hiphil form in which it means to
tell or proclaim something. This same word, in its Qal form means to
listen or hear. In this later form the word was spoken everyday by
devout Jews in their morning prayer known as the shema:

“Hear,
O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall
love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and all your soul, and
with all your strength. Take these words to heart which I enjoin on you
today. Drill them into your children. Speak of them at home and when
abroad, whether you are busy or at rest…”
(Deut 6:4-7)

By
“hearing the statutes and decrees” of the Lord the people were to give
evidence of their “wisdom and intelligence to the nations” (see Deut
4:1-8); but this they have not done. As a result, pagan nations are
called upon to witness the sins in Israel. The implication is that
Israel has become as bad as, if not worse than, the pagans.

Vs
11 Therefore, thus says the Lord, an enemy shall encompass your land,
and shall take from you your strength, and plunder your stronholds.

A
generation after the preaching of Amos this prophetic warning would
become reality when, in 722 BC, Assyria conquered the Northern Kingdom
and sent the people into exile. Their cities, land, and the ill-gotten
booty they “treasured in their strongholds” (vs 10) would be given over
to an enemy, just as the prophet Moses had warned them (see Deut 28).
The reference to lost strength repeats a warning from 2:14.

Vs
12 Thus says the Lord: As a shepherd grabs from the lion’s mouth two
legs, or a portion of an ear, so shall the sons of Israel be saved with
a corner of a couch, or a portion of a bed.

Again we see
the image of the lion. A shepherd who wrestles over a sheep with a lion
who has taken it as prey is likely to come away with very little for
his efforts. Against the Assyrian menace a remnant of the people of
Israel will survive, but without their pampered luxury symbolized by
the couch and bed. Their “good life” extorted from the poor will come
to an end. (Note: in Assyrian art the king, and sometimes his army, is symbolized by a lion).

Vs 13 Here this and bear testimony against the house of Jacob, says the Lord God, the God of Hosts:

Vs
14 For on the day I bring punishment upon Israel for his crimes I will
also bring punishment upon the altars of Bethel, the horns of the altar
I will cut off so that they fall to the ground.

Vs 15 The
winter-house and the summer-house I will smite; and the ivory-houses
shall perish, and their many houses shall be brought to an end, says
the Lord.

It is uncertain to me whether God calls upon
the prophet to bear witness in vs 13 or if it is Ashdod and Egypt who
are being spoken to (see vs 9). The term House of Jacob
could refer to the entire chosen people but here it must certainly
refers to the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom. This is borne out in
vs 14 which speaks of the destruction of the altars at Bethel, which
was in the Northern Kingdom.

Bethel was a sacred spot in Israel.
Jacob himself, the father of the twelve tribes (see Gen 30-31) founded
a sanctuary there (Gen 28). It was also at Bethel (also called
Paddanaram) that God renewed the covenant promise he had originally
made to Abraham (Gen 35:1-15). But God had chosen Jerusalem as the
place for his temple to the exclusion of all other places; therefore,
when Jeroboam I, the first king of the new Northern Kingdom,
established a shrine at Bethel, it was seen as an abomination (see 1
kings 12:26-13:3). Worse, the altar was in the shape of a bull, the
figure of an Egyptian deity. By the time of Amos’ preaching (circa 760
BC), the “sin of Jeroboam,” as it was called, had been in existence for
about a century and a half. Bethel and its altars would indeed be
destroyed. This in fact took place in 722 BC.

The wealthy people
of Israel lived luxurious lives. In the summer they stayed their homes
in Israel. Archaeology tells us that the homes of the wealthy during
the time of Amos were magnificent, with the walls and floors being
inlaid with ivory. Not content with these, they also had winter homes
to the south, in the kingdom of Judah, where the weather during the
winter months was somewhat milder. These too will be destroyed

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