Monday, January 27, 2014

The Book of Amos: A Lion Roars!

Amos: Doomsday Prophet

There is a line by us unseen,
That crosses every path;
The hidden boundary between
God’s patience and his wrath.” 
The Hidden Line by Dr. J. Addison Alexander

Introduction: A Scathing Condemnation

Reading Amos leaves the impression that he “strikes home, and repeats the blow on the same spot, only harder, until the driven wedge splits the log, and there is no help for it.”[1]  As the earliest of the writing prophets, Amos delivers a scathing condemnation against Israel and the surrounding nations that leave the reader not only reeling from the repeated blows but also plaintively asking, “Is there any hope of salvation at all?”  Under divine inspiration, Amos preached a message of inevitable judgment without offering any hope of escape.  “The prediction of immediate judgment is at the heart of Amos’ ministry.”[2]  The depravity of the surrounding nations called for it and Israel’s contumacy demanded it.

“The Words of Amos”

“The Lord Roars from Zion”:  Amos 1:1-2

The book begins with “the words of Amos”, a hitherto unknown “sheep breeder”[3] and the mention of an earthquake (v.1).  Nothing is known of the prophet Amos except from his writings.  God called him out of the city of Tekoa in Judah (known today as Teqû´ 10 miles south of Jerusalem) to preach to the northern kingdom of Israel.  Directing his message to the rulers and elite class, it is argued that Amos was not a simple shepherd of humble means but a “very gifted, highly educated individual.”[4]  Although no exact date can be determined, his ministry seems to have fallen somewhere between 760 and 750 B.C.E during the monarchies of Jeroboam II of Israel and Uzziah of Judah.[5]

The earthquake mentioned as occurring two years after Amos began his prophetic ministry might
refer to one dated in the mid-8th century, which Josephus linked to an “act of impiety on Uzziah’s part.”[6]  This “seismic phenomenon” must have deeply impressed the national consciousness of Israel since they “remembered [it] well over two centuries later as ‘the earthquake in the days of Uzziah’ (Zech 14:5).”[7]  A link seems to be made between the words of Amos and the earthquake, the latter being the authoritative effects of and sure sign of the former.  The mention of an earthquake, a theme continually implied by Amos, could also symbolize God’s judgment against Israel by means of Asyria’s invasion (cf. 8:8; 9:5). 

The Lord roaring from his throne in Jerusalem causing the fertile lands to languish and dry up is also descriptive of the powerful effects of Amos’ divinely inspired utterances of judgment upon creation (v.2).  Ironically, Heschel notes, “Most of us who care for the world bewail God’s dreadful silence, while Amos appears smitten by God’s mighty voice.”[8]

If the mention of an earthquake and God’s voice as the roar of a ferocious beast is any indication of the content of the book of Amos, then “Yahweh is about to reveal himself in his formidable grandeur, which will result only in ruin and misery for his people.”[9] 

A Fire Kindled Against the Nations: Amos 1:3-2:16

As he enters upon his prophetic ministry, Amos first turns to the surrounding nations until he finally eyes Israel and swoops down.

It will be observed that the nations denounced are not named in geographical order…The interest and sympathy of the hearers is secured by fixing attention on the enormities of guilt in their neighbors, and curiosity is kept awake by the uncertainty as to where the next stroke of the prophetic whip will fall…and thus, having relentlessly drawn the net around Israel by the enumeration of seven peoples, he swoops down upon the northern kingdom to which his message is particularly addressed.[10]

Throughout this section, all the pronouncements of judgments against the nations begin and, in the majority, end with the formula, “Thus says the Lord,” or “Says the Lord,” [11] reinforcing the justice, strength, and certainty of the threats.  In addition, the formula against all the nations, “for three transgressions…and for four,” expresses not only the multiplied transgressions, one on top of another and each one greater than the previous, but the spent patience of a holy God.  Therefore, Amos, so to speak, nails the coffin shut with the indictment, “I will not revoke its punishment”!

The phrase is not to be taken arithmetically, to mean a literal three and then four, but idiomatically, as meaning that the measure was full, and more than full; the sin of these peoples had overreached itself; or, to put it in an allowable bit of modern slang, they had ‘gone one too many,’ and ‘tipped the scale.’  The first time they had done the evil, God had rebuked.  The second time, He had threatened.  The third time, He had menaced with uplifted hand.  Now, at the forth time, He smites!  Let the nations know that though God may bear long with the wicked; they can sin once too often!  God is not mocked: there cannot be cumulative sin without a culminative stroke of retribution.  The prophets believed in ‘poetic justice” – a retribution corresponding to the guilt…”[12]

As the chart (see Addendum below) illustrates, the Lord denounces the nations with crimes of social injustice, namely treachery and cruelty against their neighbors.  It can easily be seen how cruel and treacherous each nation behaved towards their neighbors.

After each enumeration of the nation’s sins, God pronounces the judgment of fire on each one.  Whether it be upon the “house” (1:4), the “wall” (2:7,14), or the “citadels” (1:12; 2:2,5), whatever form the judgment takes, war, famine or natural convulsions, it will be as a raging fire thoroughly consuming everything in its path: “God is a consuming fire” (Deut 4:24).  The fundamental principle of God’s right to judge all nations swiftly and thoroughly is this, that “Yahweh is a God of moral perfection, who requires moral behavior of all people.  God gives life to all, and all will be held accountable for their actions in the world…These acts against humanity are sins against the God who made all people.”[13]  “God hates inhumanity.”[14]

As Heschel maintains, “There is a living God who cares.  Justice is more than an idea or a norm.  Justice is a divine concern.”[15]  This lesson is clearly illustrated, especially in the case of Moab’s transgressions against Edom (see “Comments” column on Chart).

The reason why Jesus commands us to love our enemy as well as our neighbor becomes obvious in the light of Amos’ prophetic writings: it is important to God (Matt 5:43; 19:19; 22:39).  God is concerned with how we treat each other.  As Tozer remarks,

The “first concern for His universe is its moral health…To preserve His creation God must destroy whatever would destroy it…Every wrathful judgment in the history of the world has been a holy act of preservation.”[16]

God does not sit in the sidelines of human affairs.  If such is the case, can God be less involved with affairs of Israel, His chosen people, than with the surrounding nations?  Amos does not think so.  The same fire pronounced against foreign nations is that same fire that falls on idolatrous Judah: “So I will send a fire upon Judah” (2:5a).

Israel was given the land as a gracious gift from God and He reserves the right to destroy Israel and remove her from the land as He did those that before her, and in the same manner, by deportation or extermination.[17]  As such, because of her crimes against the righteous, the needy, the helpless, the children (“girls,” v.7c), the Nazarite, and the prophets, God threatens to be upon them as a heavy burden, weighing them down until they are irreparably crushed.  Not one will escape the divine wrath poured out on God’s chosen (2:6-16).  “To outrage a man is to outrage God who stands behind him.”[18]

Calamity of the Chosen

Repudiation - “I Will Punish You”: Amos 3.

Having finished circling the nations with prophetic judgments, God now turns his attention to the prey: Israel and in particular, the elite.  Here Amos begins his condemnatory language with “Hear this word” (3:1, also 5:1 and 6:1) emphasizing the gravity of their sin and finality of His judgment. 

The people of Israel must have fumed to hear their inclusion among the nations under judgment.  They may have argued with Amos that the notion of Yahweh executing such judgments on them is impossible on the basis of (1) their covenant relationship with God, that is, their divine election, and (2) their attentive practice to the subscribed worship.

In addition, under King Jeroboam II, in the Davidic and Solomonic eras, Israel was experiencing a time of expansion and affluence among the surrounding nations, which were politically and militarily weakened as they were by the Assyrians, and thus pacified, no longer threatening them.[19]  Was not such a time of peace and prosperity proof of their God’s election?  Did not their worship secure the continuance of God’s disposition to bless them.

Amos acknowledges that they are the chosen nation of God, “which He brought up from the land of Egypt” (2:10; 3:1) and for whom He “destroyed the Amorites” (2:9) to give them the land they now possess.  Consequently, it is precisely because they are the elect of God that God will punish them for all their sins.  God’s judgment of them is based on the fact they are His elect.

…Yahweh has selected Israel.  But from that [Amos] draws a conclusion diametrically opposed to that of his partners in dialogue.  The latter take it for granted that their election protects them from the divine wrath, and shelters them from the menace of destruction.  As for the prophet, because the Israelites are the object of Yahweh’s choice that he will require them to give an explanation of their iniquities.  Just being the people of God offers no guarantee, rather it confers a special responsibility – “It is you only I have ‘chosen’…therefore I will punish you all for your iniquities.”  We are to note the astonishing reversal accomplished by Amos: election takes the place here of a bill of indictment.  We can conceive just how scandalized his hearers must have been by his proposition: the prophets had turned the history of salvation into a history of judgment.[20]

Reed agrees, saying, “The judgment of God must lie heavier on her [than on the surrounding nations] because of her election.”[21] To a people securing themselves behind displays of God’s past protection and kindness, and fancying the reaping of continued and greater blessings of abundance because of their observances of worship, Amos
…had the formidable mission of announcing that the history of relations between God and his people (salvation history?) was now finished; it had no more significance, nor could it offer any security anymore. All they could reckon on from that moment was what Yahweh was preparing for, or rather, against Israel.[22]
As Heschel observes, “chosenness must not be mistaken as divine favoritism or immunity from chastisement, but, on the contrary, that it meant being more seriously exposed to divine judgment and chastisement.”[23]
Amos had turned their theological world-view upside-down.[24] The comforter that the people wrapped themselves with, Amos pulled right off to leave them cold and naked. Israel’s “salvation” would be, in reality, their destruction. Therefore, the question was asked, “Has God really spoken through Amos?” Amos answers that, as a lion does not roar unless it captured prey, so a prophet does not speak unless God first has spoken (3:4,7-8). Since a prophet has appeared in Israel, Amos himself, God has spoken. “Thus, the people must take seriously the presence in the northern kingdom of Yahweh’s witness.”[25]
As Amos is called to witness on Yahweh’s behalf, Amos now calls the nations to witness against Israel’s wickedness (3:9-10) on behalf of God’s judgment against them (3:11-15). Not only is Israel’s theological notion skewered but also the whole mission of Israel as God’s witness is scandalized. The nations to whom Israel was called to be a witness on God’s behalf were now witnesses on God’s behalf against them. The tables are again reversed. Rather than Israel conquering the nations as a people blessed of God and reflecting His glory, foreign nations were to “pull down” their strength and “loot” their mansions. All that they had hoarded up through violence[26] was to be plundered in return by foreign nations. God will remove every place in which they relied on for their security; both their religion and their wealth will profit them nothing (3:14-15).
Some view verse 12 as a hope of consolation that not all of Israel will be destroyed. In reality, the “remnant” considered here are to be as testimonies of Israel’s guilt and the justice of God’s recompense against them (3:13). “Amos does not announce the coming in extremis of a salvation designed to‘neutralize’ the divine judgment, he demands that the Word of Yahweh (v. 12a) should be taken seriously.”[27]
Rebuke – “You Have Not Returned to Me”: Amos 4
Amos intensifies the guilt of Israel.  Because of their continued oppression of the poor (4:1-3) and their consequent hypocrisy in worship, God declares that by virtue of His own holiness, the days of judgment are surely close by and upon them (4:2).  Amos recounts five times of God’s attempts to reform them, which they persistently obstinately resisted five times (6-11), that is, every previous discipline failed since they despised it and continued to walk in social oppression and violence and hypocritical and perverted worship.  Now, all attempts to further discipline for the purpose of reform are over.  Judgment now comes in the form of God’s direct intervention: “Prepare to meet your God, O Israel.”[28]  Israel’s
worst possible misfortune at this hour is to have direct dealings with Yahweh.  Verse 12c is thus not a last appeal to convert, as some think; it says plainly that the time for the settlement of accounts has come…The purpose of this verse…is, it seems, to declare the grandeur of Yahweh at the very moment he judges the guilty…[and] Amos 4:13 thus attests the extraordinary might of the God of Israel, his authority [to judge] over the universe and his creative power [to execute said judgment].[29]
As Amos declares in 5:17, “there is wailing, because I shall pass through the midst of you, declares the Lord.”

Lamentation – “She Has Fallen”: Amos 5

This lamentation Amos takes up presupposes that Israel is beyond remedy: “She has fallen, she will not rise again” (5:2a).  Contrary to what others may view as signals of hope for Israel’s repentance and restoration (5:4-6,14-15), the emphasis is on the extent of Israel’s destruction because of the extent of her incorrigibility (5:11-12, 16-17; 25-27).  The calls to seek God and good only underscore God’s wrath against them.  In fact, it is such calls to repentance as these that they “hate” and “abhor”.  Therefore, God declares:
I hate,  I reject your festivals, nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies.

Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and

your grain offerings (in worship to appease my anger against sin),
I will not accept them;
And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not even listen to the sound of your harps (5:21-23)
Since they would not heed God, God would not heed them.  He will neither listen to their prayers nor accept their sacrifices; he will neither acknowledge their days of “repentance” nor rejoice with them in their songs of praise.  Amos “identifies true religion with righteousness” and “set down the moral dictum that the only way to seek Jehovah was to seek the good.”[30]  Their own declaration of their covenant relationship with God (5:14b) is actually a farce demonstrated by their perverted worship (4:5-7) and their oppression of the less fortunate (5:11-12).
They declare that Yahweh is with them and, therefore, cannot reject them.  For the prophet, the presence of God is not unconditional; it depends on the way Yahweh’s people observe justice in both their public and their private affairs.  The fate of Israel, he believes, is determined by their attitude towards justice, and is not dependent on their election.[31]
Although one may construe 15c as a possibility for Israel’s restoration, “Amos does not announce it as evidence, but only as a hope, employing the word perhaps’, it may be.  We must not turn this ‘perhaps’, however, into a guarantee given to the people of God that everything will turn out all right for them; their history does not issue in a ‘happy ending’ but in the cross.”[32]

As they showed themselves perverse in worship, God would show Himself perverting His covenant of election.  Their hope for reward and prosperity and the complete subjugation of all nations under their rule under a Davidic kingdom in the coming Day of the Lord will prove to be nothing less than their complete destruction as a nation (5:18-20).  What good does it do for them to hope in it?  Again, without denying its theological validity, Amos totally turns around Israel’s understanding of what the phrase, the “day of the Lord,” means from and era of peace and prosperity to a day of total devastation and annihilation, “a day of darkness instead of light,” in which not one person will hope to escape.

That “justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream” (5:24) cannot be something Israel is anticipated as doing but that which God will do in the form of judgment against Israel.

The doxology (5:8-9) as elsewhere (4:13 and 9:5-6) “underscore Yahweh’s power throughout history, emphasizing the point that, if He chooses, He can do against Israel what He has previously done for Israel.”[33]

Loathing – “I Loathe, I Detest”: Amos 6

Amos characterized God’s demands upon Israel “not only in terms of action but also in terms of passion.”  As were His feelings towards their worship, so were His feelings for their accomplishments and advancements (6:8). That God has sworn to act despicably against the elite of Israel by virtue of His holiness (4:2), He now swears reflects His attitude towards them: “I loathe the arrogance of Jacob, and I detest his citadels.”

How different was Israel in her pride in comparison to other nations, which God loathed and detested (6:1-7)?  The nations mentioned were once powerful but now are under subjection to foreign powers.  Amos seems to ask, “Do you see yourself as better than them?”  And then says, “Enjoy yourselves.  Recline on your beds, you rich and mighty.  Be comfortable; eat heartily, be full and anoint yourself with congratulations for all you have accomplished and for all the conquests you have made.  But know this, since you have not cried in repentance, since you have not wept over the words of God (He whom you claim is with you) against your sins, you who are preeminent, you will be the first to go into captivity!  Since you do not care, I will not care!”

God will treat His elect as he treated these other nations, which had no relationship with the true God and had no privileges to divine protection.  Israel, the chosen nation, would be to God as a Gentile nation: “I will deliver up the city and all it contains.”  Again, the judgment is complete; no one will be spared (6:11).

In the light of such death and devastation God will inflict upon Israel (6:9-10), her arrogance is absurd (6:11-12).  “Yahweh’s people, when they falsify justice [against the poor and weak], are behaving in a manner that is simply ludicrous.”  The only remedy for such stupidity is affliction and captivity (6:14).

“The Lord Has Sworn”

God now gives Amos visions: “I saw the Lord.”  The visions clarify and confirm the word of divine judgment.  The thrust of the chapter expresses again the finality of God’s judgment on Israel.  As He has sworn previously by virtue of His holiness that Israel’s day of judgment will arrive, God now swears by virtue of His glory (“the pride of Jacob”).  In the words of the Jewish community who experienced the holocaust and survived, so likewise God says to those who commit wickedness against their neighbor that He will, “Never forget” (8:7).
“Israel will certainly Go Into Exile” – 7

The first two visions express God’s mercy (7:1-6).  In both visions of the locust and the fire, Amos succeeds in averting disaster through his pleas for God to relent by virtue, not of covenant promise, but merely to divine mercy because Jacob would be too weak to stand up under it; it would consume her.  Note that it is a general plea, which any nation may make upon God.  There was no covenant obligation on God’s part to answer.  Amos recognizes that Israel has effectively repudiated the covenant.

In the next vision, Amos sees God with a plumb line with which he measures Israel’s fitness to represent God on the earth.  Obviously, Israel fails.  By virtue of moral failure, God announces that he “will spare them no longer.”

The narrative of Amos’ confrontation with the high priest (7:10-17) depicts Israel’s attitude towards God.  As Amaziah sought to get rid of this pest who insulted the dignity of Israel’s worship and her king, so Israel spurned Amos’ words (4:6-11 – “you have not returned to me”).  In seeking to dismiss Amos, Amaziah revealed his blindness in recognizing his ministry for the God whom Amaziah claimed to serve.  Similarly, the people, glorying in their worship of God, did not recognize God when He came to them with a word.  In this lay the sins of both priest and people, that they rebuked the Word of God through Amos and continued in their sins.  Therefore, people and priest shared the same fate, total devastation, and removal from their privileged place. 
“The behavior of the high priest – in rejecting the message of Amos with its divine warnings and going further by effectively denying the prophet’s right and necessity to speak – closes off the last chance Israel has to hear the truth and repent.  Thus, Yahweh cannot rescue and spare Israel now that the opportunity for repentance is gone for good.”[34]
“I will Spare them No Longer” – 8

Returning to Amos’ visionary experiences, God next shows Amos a basket of ripe fruit (8:1-2), which uses a play on words to convey its meaning. As summer is the end of the year and a time of ripeness for fruits, therefore, Israel’s end as a nation has come for she is ripe for judgment.  “Yahweh will not spare those who make a mockery of His moral teaching.” [35]  The picture is of Israel full of dead silence and corpses.

To those who (literally) “snap at the needy,” that is, impatiently observe their religious obligations eager to cheat their less fortunate neighbors and traffic in slavery as a means of monetary gain (4-6; cf. 2:7 and 5:11-12), God will not forget.  As the people have thus scorned God’s will “to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God,” so now God will “snap” His fingers causing the land to quake (8:8a; cf. 1:1), scorning their prayers for blessing.

In language that recalls eschatological thought, Amos vividly announces the obliteration of Israel (8:7-10).  At that time, men will seek a word of hope and comfort from the Lord but none will be given; neither prophet nor priest will have a word to give to them (8:11-14).

“For Evil and Not for Good” – 9

As we approach the end of Amos’ prophetic words, he is given a vision of God before the altar at Bethel and declares that God will “break them” and “slay them” (9:1).  Consistent with the whole theme of Amos, he says, “They will not have a fugitive who will flee, or a refugee who will escape.”  Again, the idea and emphasis is on the complete destruction of Israel as if she were not the special nation chosen by God from which to reveal and extend His glory to all nations.  The fierceness of God will not abate; He will act relentlessly until He has thoroughly paid back Israel for her crimes to men (9:2-4).  No one in Israel will escape.
There is something grandiose and terrible about this relentlessness of Yahweh in pursuing his own people in order to judge them…Yahweh’s look, which is the source of salvation and of peace, becomes here the cause of anguish and of death.[36]
The imagery is vivid: no one shall escape the evil destruction, not even those who think they can hide in foreign countries, for Yahweh will scoop up and shake the nations through His sieve, and not one Israelite shall fall through.  All Israel shall be caught in the coming destruction.[37]
Amos portrays Israel as like any other nation with no special status or privileges.  Israel is now a nation whose blood will mingle with all other men’s blood at the judgment and their corpses will lay with all the other corpses of those who knew not the love of the true and living God and who never experienced His signs and wonders.  The “eyes of the Lord are on the sinful kingdom” of Ethiopia, Egypt, Philistia, Caphtor, Syria, Kir, Egypt, and Israel “for evil and not for good and I will destroy it from the face of the earth” (8:8)
Amos “implicitly denies that Jehovah needs Israel, but explicitly affirms that essentially all peoples are God’s people, and that all the movements of the nations are as much God’s doing as the Exodus from Egypt (9:7).  Therein lies the certainty that a just God will justly judge Israel.”[38]
There is debate on whether 9:8c-15 are from Amos or were added by an editor later on during or after the Assyrian conquest of Israel and her deportation in fulfillment of Amos’ words and other prophetic utterances.  Whichever view one takes (it seems to me both views have merit though I prefer the latter), one need only keep in mind that “However pessimistic a prophet might be about his own generation, he was completely optimistic about the future.  Sooner or later God’s purpose in the choice of Israel was bound to be vindicated.”[39]

The point stressed in Amos is that persistence in sin leads inevitably to judgment without offering any hope of escape.

Theological and Practical Insights

From this study, at least four insights can be gleaned.

First, God holds no favoritism countenancing sin and apostasy.  No man or nation is beyond the moral law of God.  The theological belief one holds regarding salvation must not allow the toleration of sin and apostasy.  The idea of “once saved, always saved” is a prime example of a view that has no merit and violates the Biblical view of God’s judgment against His people who maintain a stance of disobedience.  Awhile back, my wife told me of a professing Christian who, abandoning his wife, told their children, “You think God won’t forgive me if I divorce your mother?”  He was under the belief that abandoning his wife did not change his relationship with God; that God would forgive him or, in other words, consent and approve of his disobedience.  He is under the mistaken impression that because “God chose him” any violation of God’s moral law, irrespective of how flagrant or willful, he is immune to any form of condemnation or judgment.  The essence of a relationship with God is not title – “Christian,” “believer,” “Baptist,” “Pentecostal,” “Pastor,” “Bishop,” “Deacon,” or any other such title – but relationship.

Second, when conversing with sinners, whether they are professing Christians or not, we ought to remove every excuse they have for either disobeying or rejecting divine truth.  A woman shared with us how she found it hard to obey God to go back to her husband and leave the man she was living with.  We spoke firmly advising her that any notions she has of her loving her husband are erroneous; she loves herself.  We told her in no uncertain terms that continued disobedience to what she knows to be the will of God will endanger her salvation; that sooner or later conviction and mercy will cease and God will allow her to go on her own “merry” way.  Not only will she be lost, but the man she is living with will also be lost because she remains a stumbling block to God moving in his life.  The next day she moved out and is presently attending a church on a regular basis and walking with God in obedience.  Finney advises that
In dealing with a convicted sinner, be sure to drive him away from every refuge and not leave him an inch of ground to stand on so long as he resists God…You will find the truth will be like a hammer, crushing wherever it strikes.  Make clean work with it, so that he shall give up all for God.

      Make the sinner clearly see the nature and extent of the Divine law, and press the main question of entire submission to God.  Bear down on that point as soon as you have made him clearly understand what you aim at, and do not turn off upon anything else.[40]
Third, we must never entertain the thought that God will tolerate our inhumanity to others no matter in what degree or form.  He does not tolerate physically abusive mothers or verbally and emotionally abusive husbands.  He will not tolerate the rudeness of a homeless man as well as the barbarity of a Hitler.  He tolerates neither the rich thief nor the poor thief.  He especially has no toleration for social injustice – the strong hoarding over the weak – or social hardness – the well-off ignoring the plight of the homeless.  We cannot entertain the idea that social injustice is a trivial matter.  If it were as trivial as we might imagine, there would have been no need for the Cross of Christ.

Fourth, we must never hold onto the notion that God is pleased with our worship while we practice sin.  We are witnesses either for God or against God.  Our outward conduct and not just our inward faith alone will tell the tale.  If we will not be witnesses of His divine favor, we will be witnesses of His divine vengeance.  Moreover, as His love is thorough in forgiving and cleansing us of all sin, so is His anger thorough in rooting and pulling out all sinners and the disobedient however moral or religious they may seem.

If the ungodly nations were severely punished for their rebellion against God coupled with their sins against their fellow man, the Church, engaging in like rebellion coupled with the same sins, cannot assume she will be excluded from such judgments because she is elect.  In his day, Amos held no prospect of hope for those, elect or not, who abuse the Lord’s mercy.  If God never changes, being in divine nature and character “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb 13:8; Mal 3:6), He is no different now.

Crimes of the Nations Against God
Character of Sin
Acts of Sin
Syria (Damascus), 1:3-5
Israel (Gilead)
They “threshed Gilead.”
2 Kgs 10:32; 13:7.  “…the conquerors acted so cruelly…that they crushed the prisoners to pieces with iron-threshing machines, according to a barbarous war-custom.”[41]
Philistines (Gaza),
Slave trafficking.
2 Chr 21:16; Joel 3:3-4 –  “The captivity may refer to…incursions made by the Philistines in time of peace” and of those deported, none returned afterwards.[42]  They also forced children into prostitution.
Phoenicia (Tyre),
Cruelty and Treachery.
Slave trafficking, covenant breaking
2 Sam 5:11; 1Kgs 5:1ff.  Tyre guilt was deepened because of their friendly alliance with David and Solomon and the “fact that no king of Israel or Judah had ever made war on Phoenicia.”[43]  In addition, the covenant between Hiram pledged to David implied “recognition of the God of Israel as the true God.”[44]
Edom, 1:11-12.
Treachery, cruelty, hatred.
Edom waged an unjust and savage war.
Edom “pursued his brother with the sword.”  He maintained a violent hatred towards his “brother” Israel (Num 20:21; 2 Chr 28:17; Obad 10-17).  Edom suppress[ed] all the natural feeling of pity for a brother in distress.”  On the other hand, “Israel’s wars with Edom had been defensive, not aggressive.”[45]
Ammon, 1:13-15.
Israel (Gilead)
“Ammon’s object in this cruel act was to leave Israel without ‘heir’ so as to seize on Israel’s inheritance…”[46]  This atrocity by the Ammonites is not recorded in the Old Testament.  However, a similar event is predicted in Hos 13:16 and as Hazael of Syria was also guilty of the same crime (2 Kgs 8:12) as Ammon, it is possible they were “banded together, as in the days of David, for Israel’s extermination.”[47]
Moab 2:1-3.
Burning son of Edom’s king.[48]
2 Kgs 3:26-27.  Though the victim here is not Israel, nevertheless, God will punish nations primarily because “He is the judge of all the earth.”[49]
Judah, the southern kingdom of Israel, 2:4-5.
Rejection of and disobedience to the Law, idolatry.
The whole of all the evil they committed is enumerated throughout the book of Amos (3:1 – “the entire family,” meaning all Israel and Judah are included as objects of divine denunciation).  “Yahweh has something for which to reproach the Judeans: their infidelity towards the teaching of Yahweh…This infidelity is manifested concretely by a refusal to obey his commandments…and because of idolatrous practices…”[50]
Israel, the northern kingdom, 2:6-16
Oppression of the poor.
Although “Israel’s guilt lies in the social realm, not the religious,” nevertheless, “Israel’s moral condition was religious,”[51] as the underlying cause for her apostasy “came from a false conception of God, and if people came to a true conception of God, the other matters would reform themselves.”[52]

[1]   Quote is taken from a minister remarking on his impression of the preaching of Charles G. Finney.  See Garth M. Rosell and Richard A.G. Dupuis, eds., The Memoirs of Charles G. Finney (Grand Rapids: Zondervom, 1989), 346.
[2]   Oscar F. Reed, Amos, Beacon Bible Commentary, vol. 5, ed. A.F. Harper and W.M. Greathouse (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1966), 122.
[3]   Amos 1:1, Tanakh.
[4]   Bruce E. Willoughby, “Amos, Book of” in Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol 1, ed. David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 205.  Cf. IBC revised, “Amos”, 4:114.
[5]   Ibid.
[6]   Ibid.
[7]   William Sanford Lasor, David Allan Hubbard, and Frederic William Bush, eds., Old Testament Survey, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans), 1996), 245.
[8]   Abraham J. Heschel, The Prophets, (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1999), 1:29.
[9]   Robert Martin-Archard, “Amos,” International Theological Commentary: God’s People in Crisis, translated by G.A.F. Knight (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984), 14.
[10] J. Robertson and C. Armerding, “Amos,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, revised, vol. 1, ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), 115.
[11] All scriptural references and quotations are from the NASB unless otherwise noted.
[12] J. Sidlow Baxter, Explore the Book, 1 vol. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1966), 4:130.
[13] OT Survey, 251-252.
[14] Explore., 131.
[15] Prophets, 1:32.  Emphasis his.
[16] A.W. Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy (New York: Harper and Row, 1971), 113.
[17] ITC, 23.  In addition, Martin-Achard, observes, “the prophet left them no more hope of salvation than [he] did the other nations around the northern kingdom.  He thus makes it clear that Yahweh is not a national deity, egoist and partial, interested only in the prosperity of his own and in the crushing of their enemies, as had at times been maintained.  The God of Israel watches over the whole group of peoples…” (25).
[18] Ibid.
[19] ABD, 1:205.  Also see Beacon 5:109 and ITC, 11-13.
[20] ITC, 28.
[21] Beacon, 5:120.
[22] ITC, 8.
[23] Prophets, 1:32.
[24] Amos was unique in turning the doctrine of election up-side down with his belief that Israel was not indemnified against punishment, but was all the more accountable in view of her election’ ABD, 1:208.
[25] Ibid., 29.
[26] See NASB margin on 3:10: “the booty from violence.”
[27] ITC, 31.
[28] “Amos taunted, ‘Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!’ (4:12).  A meeting that Israel could only have imagined as a pleasant experience now becomes an occasion for the wrath of God to rain down upon those who are present” ABD, 1:208.
[29] Ibid., 37.  However, for the contrary view, see Prophets, 1:35-37: “Israel has a rendezvous with God.  Castigation failed; an encounter will save.”
[30] Beacon, 5:126-127.  Cf. ABD, 1:206: “One’s conduct in the marketplace must always conform to one’s attitude in the holy place.”
[31] ITC, 41.
[32] Ibid.
[33] ABD, 1:208.  Their emphasis.
[34] Ibid., 1:209
[35] Ibid.
[36] ITC, 63.
[37] ABD, 1:209.
[38] Men Spake, 34.
[39] Ibid.
[40] Charles Gradison Finney, Revivals of Religion (United States: Revell), 191.
[41] C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, “Amos” in vol. 10, Commentary on the Old Testament (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1989), 243.  “Amos speaks of Damascus as threshing Gilead (1:3) – literally driving threshing sleds with pieces of iron or flint imbedded in their underside over the wounded and dying bodies of the conquered” (Cf. OT Survey, 251).
[42] Adam Clarke, Clarke’s Commentary, vol. 4 (Nashville: Abingdon, no date indicated), 673.
[43] Keil, 247.
[44] Robert Jamieson, A.R. Fausset, and David Brown, vol. 2, A Commentary: Critical, Experimental, and Practical (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973), 2:529.
[45] Ibid., 530.
[46] Ibid.
[47] Ibid.
[48] Clarke’s, 4:674.
[49] H.L. Ellison, Men Spake from God (Carlisle: Paternoster, 1995), 32.  Ellison argues the possibility that at least in one case (Moab, 2:1ff), if not more (Philistines, 1:6ff, and Tyre, 1:9f?), “the crimes condemned are not against Israel at all.”  Martin-Achard observes, “What is remarkable in this oracle is the fact that it does not concern itself directly with Israel.  It is about the attitude of a foreign nation (Moab) towards another foreign nation (Edom).  Yet, the God of Israel considers he ha the right to intervene, even though his own people are not directly involved, just because a crime has been committed that he simply cannot tolerate…Yahweh openly appears as the guardian of a rule which must be observed even by those people who do not know his Name.” (ITC, 20).  In any case, whether or not one views the nations as transgressing against Israel, it still holds true that God as judge reserves to himself the supreme right to judge all nations for any and every transgressions against their fellow man including and especially the nation of Israel, His chosen people.
[50] Men Spake, 20
[51] ITC, 21.
[52] Men Spake, 31.

1.             Baxter, J. Sidlow.  Explore the Book.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1966.
2.             Clarke, Adam.  Clarke’s Commentary.  4 vols.  Nashville: Abingdon.
3.             Ellison, H.L.  Men Spake From God.  Carlisle: Paternoster, 1995.
4.             Finney, Charles Gradison.  Revivals of Religion.  United States: Revell, 191.
5.             Heschel, Abraham J.  The Prophets.  Peabody: Hendrickson, 1999.
6.             Jamieson,, Robert, Fausset, A.R. and Brown, David. A Commentary: Critical, Experimental, and Practical.  3 vols.  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973
7.             Keil, C.F. and Delitzsch, F.  10 vols.  Commentary on the Old Testament Peabody: Hendrickson.  1989
8.             Lasor, William Sanford, Hubbard, David Allan, and Bush, Frederic William, eds.  Old Testament Survey.  2nd Ed.  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996.
9.             Martin-Archard, Robert.  “Amos.”  International Theological Commentary: God’s People in Crisis.  Translated by Knight, G.A.F.  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984.
10.          Reed, Oscar F.  “Amos.” Beacon Bible Commentary.  10 vols.  A.F. Harper and W.M. Greathouse, Eds.  Kansas City: Beacon, 1966.
11.          Robertson, J. and Armerding C.  “Amos.”  In International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, revised.  4 vols.  Ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley.  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979.
12.          Rosell, Garth M. and Dupuis, Richard A.G., Eds.  The Memoirs of Charles G. Finney.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1989.
13.          Tozer, A.W., Knowledge of the Holy.  New York: Harper and Row, 1971.
14.          Willoughby, Bruce E., “Amos, Book of.”  In Anchor Bible Dictionary.  6 vols.  Ed. David Noel Freedman.  New York: Doubleday, 1992.
This was a term paper written while attending the Fires School of Ministry when it was located in New York, NY.