Amos 1

Amos 1  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 10
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The words of Amos, who was among the herdmen of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel, two years before the earthquake” (vs. 1).
Differences As Compared With Hosea
If the prophet Amos was thus a contemporary of Hosea during some part of his ministry, there is, as we might naturally expect, considerable difference in the character and aim of the two prophets; for God does not write merely to corroborate. For Him to speak once must be sufficient. In grace He may be pleased to give confirmatory testimony, but it is never necessary. Hence, even though there may be ever such strong resemblance in accounts of the same transactions and during the same epoch, substantially at least God has always a special object before Him in the work that He assigns to each. So it will be found that Amos, inasmuch too as he was of Judah, has his own peculiarities and a distinct line from God.
Calmer in Grief, and Bringing in the Gentiles and the Whole Family of Israel
The general tone of the prophecy differs from Hosea’s in that the latter speaks with far more emotion, with stronger expressions of passionate grief over the condition of Israel. But there was also this difference, that Amos brings in the Gentiles incomparably more than Hosea, who is almost exclusively Jewish. Hence, in the very beginning of our prophet we find the judgments that were impending over the various nations surrounding the land of Israel. We shall find further that the prophecy has a different character even in what is said of Israel and Judah; but this will properly come before us as we examine it in detail.
First then we may notice that this prophecy, though remarkably connected, consists nonetheless of different sections. The first two chapters compose a regularly constructed series of judgments, beginning with Damascus, then with Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Moab, Ammon, Judah, and Israel. From the beginning of chapter 3 both families are taken up, the children of Israel, the whole family, as it is said, which He brought up out of the land of Egypt. From this point onwards each chapter composes a section of the prophecy; so clearly that even those who object to Hosea for the broken and disjointed character of his prophecies admit the orderly series of Amos. It has been already shown how unfounded is the objection to Hosea; but it is the more remarkable in the case of Amos that the connection should be so sustained and evident, inasmuch as the portions of his prophecy were clearly separate in themselves.
The Truth Found in Christ Alone Sanctifies
The truth is, man has an indifferent judgment of the word of God; and it is a great mistake that he assumes to himself or allows others to judge it at all. It is exactly right to use it for judging others, were it even an Apostle that preached. The sure and only way to profit fully by it is, first of all, to receive it implicitly. When we thus bow our will to God and His word, we learn; it cannot be otherwise safely, however grace may save us finally. Hence moral condition is always essential to understanding the Word of God. If the will be not subject, spiritual intelligence is impossible. “If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light” (Matt. 6:2222The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. (Matthew 6:22)). Surely this is worthy of God, and, more than that, it is wholesome for man. There cannot be a more dangerous thing than the appearance of high intelligence where the heart is far from God. Therefore, it is the greatest mercy that spiritual intelligence is, as the rule, inseparable from a right condition of the soul with the Lord. It is very possible that the man may have bright thoughts, as indeed commonly is the case with the enemy, who contrives with positive heresy to mix up not a little which sounds plausible and like truth. There may even be attention drawn to neglected truth; but then it is not a truth that sanctifies, but the truth. A truth misused may be the means of the greatest injury and danger to the soul. The truth is found in Christ only, and therefore it is the possession of Christ before us which alone secures both the glory of God and the blessing of man.
Though of Judah, the Mission of Amos Was to Israel
In our prophecy then the prophet introduces himself according to his lowly origin and condition. There is no vaunt nor puff. There was love in the Spirit, and love does not behave itself unseemly. There was boldness, as we shall find; there was a courageous, uncompromising readiness to oppose wrongdoers, were it the king of Israel, but no hiding that he himself was among the herdsmen of Tekoa. Further, he speaks of the king of Israel, not merely of Judah. There was no narrowness of feeling—nor was there unworthy yielding to the condition in which Israel was. There was no excuse drawn from the circumstance of the rent between the ten tribes and the two; as if one by the providence of God cast among the two was therefore to be absolved from all painful duty as to the ten. Nonetheless the mission of Amos as a whole was to Israel. He notices Judah; but the charge given him was Jeroboam’s kingdom far more than Judah. In short, his heart being with God, he loved His people as such. He loved the whole of them therefore, and could not yield to the enemy that, if sin had compelled a schism, and this had been the occasion of deeper mischief which dishonored God, a prophet must abandon his testimony for His name—must forget that all were sons of Israel, and the objects of promise, destined yet to taste of saving mercy, as surely as they were now on the ground of law and reaping the bitter consequences of their unfaithfulness. He could wait for the day when God would cast out all stumbling-blocks and renew the bond that had been broken, renewing it too, never to be severed again, under its only rightful head—the true Son of David, the Lord Christ. This we shall find in his prophecy before this notice is concluded.
Further, as Amos does not hide that he was of lowly degree, nor his connection with the south of Judah, neither does he abstain from pressing the solemnity of Jehovah’s utterance by him. His words were what “he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel, two years before the earthquake:” (vs. 1) warnings first in word, then in deed.
Observe this preface: “And he said, Jehovah will roar from Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem.” (vs. 2) Such is the opening of our prophet, who begins where Joel ends (Joel 3:1616The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the Lord will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel. (Joel 3:16)). These references to, or citations from, other prophets are designed of God, and serve to bind the various witnesses in one testimony, as another has profitably called to our notice. But how solemn it is that Jehovah utters His voice from the central spot of His worship and government, not to comfort and direct but to denounce; and to denounce not strangers and enemies but His own people! He “will roar”; and the effect is that the shepherds mourn in the south, and the beautiful blooming Carmel withers in the north.
Damascus, Gaza, Tire, Edom, Ammon, Moab, Judged Successively
Then we come to particulars. “Thus saith Jehovah; For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four,1 I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have threshed Gilead with threshing instruments of iron. But I will send a fire into the house of Hazael which shall devour the palaces of Ben-hadad.” The Spirit begins with the greatest but most external of the enemies here to be enumerated, the Syrians. Their ruthless and persevering efforts cruelly to exterminate the Jews east of the Jordan would not be forgiven. This filled the cup of Syria. “I will break also the bar of Damascus, and cut off the inhabitants from the plain of Aven, and him that holdeth the scepter from the house of Eden: and the people of Syria shall go into captivity unto Kir, saith Jehovah.” The Syrians were to go back captives to Kir (probably Kurgistan, Georgia), whence they had emerged as conquerors and settlers.
So also as to Gaza, and in similar style as representing the Philistines, their old, unremitting, and active antagonists, if not an internal, at least a borderer, foe.
They had been guilty of transgression upon transgression, and therefore Jehovah would not here to turn back. He would deal summarily with their iniquity, not carrying them off merely, but annihilating them as a people. “The remnant of the Philistines shall perish, saith the Lord Jehovah” (vs. 8).
Then comes before us Tyre, purse-proud as a city of merchant princes usually is, and by commerce connected with every part of the earth; its palaces should be devoured by fire, as in fact came to pass. “Thus saith Jehovah; For three transgressions of Tyrus, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they delivered up the whole captivity to Edom, and remembered not the brotherly covenant: but I will send a fire on the wall of Tyrus, which shall devour the palaces thereof” (vs. 9). They were false to their brotherly covenant and delivered up a complete captivity of the Jews to Edom, the haughty hater of the people of God. Little did they think that He saw and resented their covetous traffic in Israel.
Edom is next threatened with a judgment of no less extreme character. Here the sin was closer, as the tie was of blood, not covenant only—pitiless pursuit of his brother, and the keeping up of undying wrath. “Thus saith Jehovah; For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because he did pursue his brother with the sword, and did cast off all pity, and his anger did tear perpetually, and he kept his wrath forever: but I will send a fire upon Teman, which shall devour the palaces of Bozrah” (vss. 11-12).
Ammon yet political and calculating in their desire to destroy Israel for their own interests are doomed of God to go into captivity. “Thus saith Jehovah; For three transgressions of the children of Ammon, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have ripped up the women with child of Gilead, that they might enlarge their border: but I will kindle a fire in the wall of Rabbah, and it shall devour the palaces thereof, with shouting in the day of battle, with a tempest in the day of the whirlwind” (vss. 13-14).
1. This formula is not to be taken as equivalent to three + four transgressions, but as the climax after several antecedent evils of lesser degree. (Compare Prov. 30:15-3115The horseleach hath two daughters, crying, Give, give. There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four things say not, It is enough: 16The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not, It is enough. 17The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it. 18There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not: 19The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid. 20Such is the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness. 21For three things the earth is disquieted, and for four which it cannot bear: 22For a servant when he reigneth; and a fool when he is filled with meat; 23For an odious woman when she is married; and an handmaid that is heir to her mistress. 24There be four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise: 25The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer; 26The conies are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks; 27The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands; 28The spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings' palaces. 29There be three things which go well, yea, four are comely in going: 30A lion which is strongest among beasts, and turneth not away for any; 31A greyhound; an he goat also; and a king, against whom there is no rising up. (Proverbs 30:15‑31)).