Amos has been connected to the sheep, a social prophet, and a shepherd by trade, who had a tremendous concern for the downtrodden.
Chapters 1-3, Amos prophesied about God’s plans to judge Israel and surrounding nations, eight in all. Today, we’ll take a deep dive into chapters 1 and the first part of 2.
Have you ever wondered what life would be like if we lived in a country that was really ruled by God through His believing people? Would there be poor people, or would we share everything we had with each other? Would there be lonely people, people who couldn’t get a decent education? Would there be much crime? How about the court system, the prison system, the medical system? What would it be like?
Condemnation, Amos Chapter 1:1-2:5
Remember that Amos did not start out as a prophet, nor were any others in his extended family ever prophets. His call from God was completely unexpected. He started out in life on a farm in the village of Tekoa, in ancient Judah—either as a poor farm boy or as a wealthy country esquire, the evidence supports both profiles. The way he chose to depict himself, at least, was as a simple man minding his own business, tending to his farm and family, when God came barreling in with an urgent message:
The Lord roars from Zion
and thunders from Jerusalem;
the pastures of the shepherds dry up,
and the top of Carmel withers.Amos 1:2 (NRSV)
As I picture the scene in my mind’s eye, I see Amos out with his flock watching the countryside in quiet repose when, before his eyes, the landscape begins to shimmer as if with waves of heat. He closes his eyes, perhaps rubs them with his thumb and knuckle, and as he does so senses the swelter of fire. A sharp stab of adrenaline shoots through his chest as his eyes startle open.
It is as though the whole field is ablaze, the sheep are bleating and burning, stampeding in terror, tongues of flame leap from every grass blade, waves of fire sweep across the horizon, his skin is curling and charring as he stares in horror, every ragged breath he draws in scalding him clear to his lungs.
And then, he hears a voice, deep and deafening, a voice so powerful he can feel it reverberating through his body, loosening his joints, a voice that penetrates to his core, as though it were coming both from inside him as well as from the sky. . .
It was a time of great wealth, of even luxury for both Judah and Israel. In Judah, Amos’ native country, King Uzziah was in power (he reigned from 785 ‑747 B.C.) Because King Jeroboam’s reign (793 ‑ 753 B.C.) to the north completely overlapped King Uzziah’s era, it is generally accepted that Amos, who was a contemporary of Jonah’s, prophesied to Israel from between 760 ‑ 750 B.C.
After his vision, Amos traveled up from Tekoa to Bethel, one of the seats of false religion in Israel, and began to prophesy.
Amos had understood that God’s roaring like a lion was His warning to all Israel of the fierce judgement about to come—from the lowest, farthest reaches to the highest, lushest point in the country. God did not speak from the northern nation’s capital city, nor from their most prestigious temple. God spoke from Mount Zion, God’s holy mountain, God’s government established in Jerusalem, the city God established as holy, the only place where believers could offer true worship, in the true temple.
Seven times, Amos announced “This is what the Lord says,” and he began with “three sins . . . even for four” a formula that meant an indeterminate amount of sins. The number three was for “full,” and the number four was for “over the top.”
At first Amos prophesied judgement that any Israelite would have vigorously applauded.
- Amos began with the hostile pagan city of Damascus—the threshing sledge mentioned in verse 3 was a wooden sledge with sharp teeth used to cut grain, only this time it cut people and property.
- Next came Philistia with Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon and Ekron.
- After them was Phoenicia with the city of Tyre.
Then, having finished with the pagan nations, Amos’ prophesied judgement inched a little closer to the bone:
- Hated Edom, the descendants of Jacob’s brother Esau.
- Ammon and
- Moab, the sons of Lot by incest.
Amos’ final pronouncement in this series, though it might have left some faintly unsettled, would still have been largely welcomed in Israel.
“Damascus” your sins have reached the limit, and indeed have spilled over.
Damascus was the capital city of the nation Aram, and Gilead a beautiful district in Israel. Hazael and Ben-Hada were both kings of Aram. Judged by God for their savage cruelty, eventually Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria would take the Arameans captive to Kir.
“Gaza” your sins have reached the limit, and indeed have spilled over.
These four cities—Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Ekron to the west—were the main centers of Philistia. Judged by God for their slave trade, the Philistines as a civilization would eventually be wiped out.
“Tyre” your sins have reached the limit, and indeed have spilled over.
Just to the north and west of Israel, along the coast, was the wealthy nation of Phoenicia, well-known for their trade in purple dyes and for their port cities. Judged by God because they also traded in slaves and broke treaties, even their heretofore impregnable island city of Tyre would one day be destroyed.
“Edom” your sins have reached the limit, and indeed have spilled over.
Though the two brothers, Jacob and Esau, had met amicably in Israel’s distant past to bury their father Isaac together, the two nations they founded were uneasy towards each other.
Now, God judged two cities at the southeasternmost border of Edom—Teman and Bozrah—for their unchecked violence against their kinspeople, the nations of Judah and Israel.
“Ammon” your sins have reached the limit, and indeed have spilled over.
At the very beginnings of their shared history, Abraham had loved, protected, and been very generous to his nephew Lot. However, the nations founded by the sons Lot sired through his two daughters had remained hostile towards their kinspeople, Judah and Israel.
Rabbah was a town just east of the Jordan River. Judged by God for their bloodthirsty desire for Israel’s territory, they would one day find themselves barbarously overrun and taken into exile, losing all their own lands.
“Moab” your sins have reached the limit, and indeed have spilled over.
Kerioth was located to the south of Moab and was included in God’s judgement for having shown extreme revengefulness, and desecrating a human body.
“JUDAH” your sins have reached the limit, and indeed have spilled over.
Judged by God for having rejected His law, not keeping His decrees, and allowing themselves to be led astray by false gods, God would now permit the unthinkable. The devastating fire in Amos’ vision would sweep into Jerusalem itself, scorching all the earth before it, and bringing down God’s holy city into a pile of cinders and ash.
Those hearing him preach would have noticed Amos was making a slow spiral that looked as though it would circle right into Israel, for he had pronounced God’s judgment and condemnation on even Israel’s blood brother Judah, Amos’ own native country.
. . . Would Amos dare to prophesy against Israel, right here in one of their most prominent and popular religious centers, Beth-El, the very “House” of “God”?!
[Lion | ngimg / fire and lone figure | Pixabay]