Amo 3: "Israel is described by the humble prophet herdsman,
used to the hardships and sacrifices of a herdman's existence as apostate (Amo
2:4), oppressive (Amo 2:6), immoral (Amo 2:7), vain and indolent (Amo 6:16),
idolatrous (Amo 2:8), exceeding the guilt of other nations (Amo 3:2). He
described the seat of royal power as the foundation of transgression (Amo 7:13;
3:14; 4:4; 5:5). Though it was the period of Israel's greatest power, when the
people doubtless imagined that all was well, Amos warned of national judgments
soon to fall on it (Amo 6:14). He prophesied two years before the great
earthquake in the death of king Uzziah, which is typical of the greater
earthquake at Christ's return (Zec 14:4). Amos 3-6 provides an explanation of
Yahweh's judgment, with three discourses stating the sins of the Ecclesia, and
revealing impending judgment. They are each commenced with the solemn call:
'Hear this word'. So the record has:  Responsibilities resting on Israel: Amo
3:1-2.  Responsibilities resting on Amos: vv 3-8;  The heathen are invited
to witness to Samaria1s sins: vv 9,10;  Retribution: The punishment
impending: vv 11-15. The ch concludes with the amazing contrast between the
altars of Bethel (v 14), and the luxurious and pretentious homes of the wealthy
ecclesia (v 15)" (GEM).
Amo 3: Amos' first message explained that God would judge His
people because they had oppressed others in spite of their uniquely privileged
relationship with Yahweh. The prophet addressed this message initially to both
Israel and Judah (vv 1,2), but he focused it mainly on Israel (vv
YOU ONLY HAVE I CHOSEN OF ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH;
THEREFORE I WILL PUNISH YOU FOR ALL YOUR SINS: God knew and chose the Jews
in the sense of Psa 147:19,20: "He has revealed his word to Jacob, his laws and
decrees to Israel. He has done this for no other nation; they do not know his
laws" (cp the covenant made on mount Sinai (Exo 19:3-6; Deu 28:1-14). But in the
broader sense, now, any person or people to whom the word of God has been given
could be considered "known" and "chosen" in the same way! There is a great
warning in this.
"Closeness must not be mistaken for divine favoritism or
immunity from chastisement, but, on the contrary, it means being more seriously
exposed to divine judgment and chastisement" (Abraham Heschel).
Vv 3-8: Amos asked seven rhetorical questions in vv 3-6 to
help the Israelites appreciate the inevitability of their judgment. In each one
the prophet pointed out that a certain cause inevitably produces a certain
effect. The five questions in vv 3-5 expect a negative answer, and the two in v
6 expect a positive one. Vv 7,8 draw the conclusion.
DO TWO WALK TOGETHER UNLESS THEY HAVE AGREED TO DO SO?:
The verse is used to suggest the notion that only when there is perfect
agreement among brethren can they "walk together" in the bonds of fellowship. In
the first place such a blanket assertion is not true, and in the second place
such a usage of the verse is entirely beside the point.
It is certainly wrong to state as a matter of fact or
principle that two men cannot cooperate unless they are perfectly agreed in
every particular. In actual practice, nothing is further from the truth. Two men
or a group can work together quite well on a common project by agreeing
beforehand to submerge their differences in matters of secondary importance. If
in their minds there is the same major goal, then minor considerations are
modestly set aside so that their full energies may be directed toward its
achievement. Such a policy is wise, and Scriptural! Peter's "Be ye subject one
to another" (1Pe 5:5) surely expresses such a spirit of "compromise" in the best
sense, as does Paul's exhortation to the strife-prone Corinthians: "There should
be no schism in the body... the members should have the same care one for
another" (1Co 12:25).
What then is the point of Amos 3:3? Perhaps the RSV rendering
here would be helpful: "Do two walk together, unless they have made an
appointment?" Or, as the Heb: 'unless they have met together?' This sounds very
much like the thoughts expressed above: Two men can and do walk together IF they
have agreed beforehand to walk together; it is as simple as that.
However, a consideration of the prophet's message in the
broader sense indicates that the two who must agree in order to walk together
are God and man. God knew Israel in the sense that to Israel He had committed
His laws (v 2; Psa 147:19,20). This knowledge placed upon Israel the burden of
responsibility to obey God, to agree to walk with Him; else Israel would be
punished above all the nations for her transgressions. But, responsibilities
aside, there are also great privileges in such a close association with the
Almighty: "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto
his servants the prophets" (Amo 3:7). Man must walk in communion and harmony of
heart and purpose with God. In doing so his blessings will be many, but if he
deserts such a partnership then he may expect fiery judgment. God is saying,
'Can you think to ignore My advice and still claim to be My friend?'
The very first thing God asks us to agree with Him about is
that we are sinners, not that we are as perfect as He is. An awareness of our
weaknesses before God should make us considerably more sympathetic toward the
weaknesses of our brethren. The goal of all is that we learn day by day to walk
more and more in conformity with God's will. In the awesome shadow cast by our
Father, we are all no better than toddlers, and our petty quarrels with His
other babes are just so much futility, and are due to our limited horizons. The
Lord of all creation has condescended to grasp each of us by the hand; like a
natural father, He has shortened His pace so that we may be helped and guided in
our first faltering steps upward toward manhood. Let us set our attentions upon
His standard and strive to conform to it; let us walk with God (Gen 5:22; 6:9;
17:1), and not be so concerned to scrutinize the faltering steps of our
One final thought: Today divorce has become a widespread
practice in the world around us, so much so that many young people enter
marriages fully intending to terminate them at the first sign of trouble, on
such flimsy grounds as "incompatibility". It is as if they are saying, 'We can
no longer walk together, because we do not agree on such-and-such.' There are
few in the brotherhood who would not deplore such a childish disregard for the
marriage bond. And yet how often do brethren put forward this same excuse for
"divorcing" themselves from a bond just as sacred -- the tie that binds (or
should bind) all Christ's brethren together! They thus put asunder in the
spiritual realm what they would never think of dissolving on the domestic level;
and this means a debris of broken homes and lingering recriminations. And all
because they will not apply the same restraint and reasonableness and patience
and understanding in the ecclesial family that every husband and wife knows is
essential in the natural family.
"The seven examples of related events began innocuously, but
become increasingly foreboding. The first example (v3) had no element of force
or disaster about it. The next two (v 4), however, concerned the overpowering of
one animal by another, and the two after that (v 5) pictured man as the
vanquisher of animal prey. In the final two examples (v 6), people themselves
were overwhelmed, first by other human instruments, then by God Himself. This
ominous progression, to the point where God Himself is seen as the initiator of
human calamity, brought Amos to a climactic statement (vv 7,8)"
WHEN DISASTER COMES TO A CITY, HAS NOT THE LORD CAUSED
IT?: "When we consider how much depends, both in public and private matters,
upon the moods and desires of particular individuals, and how easy it is for
divine power to affect those moods without the person being aware of the cause,
or that any cause at all is in operation, it is easy to realise how God can
raise trouble or give peace, without any apparent interference with the order of
nature. A man has not yet learnt the ways of God thoroughly, who does not
recognise that most of His dealings with the children of men in the present
state of racial alienation, are performed with gloved hand, and from within the
veil so to speak, by means of regulated natural circumstances which are none the
less the work of God because under a mask" (WP 206,207).
SURELY THE SOVEREIGN GOD DOES NOTHING WITHOUT REVEALING HIS
PLAN TO HIS SERVANTS THE PROPHETS: Who, as with Amos, add nothing of their
own to the message -- since they are in agreement with the words of God (cp v
The rising crescendo of observations of impending danger (vv
3-6) introduces two other events (v 8). But first of all, the prophet reminds
his listeners that God does nothing to His people unless He first warns them
through one of His prophets (cf Psa 25:14; Jer 23:18, 22): 'Be alert! You HAVE
"This revelation is made that his people's faith may be
confirmed and enlarged; and that in every generation they may know the times and
seasons to which they stand related. Knowing the signs they are enabled to
discern the times; and while consternation and dismay cause men's hearts to
fail, they are courageous, and rejoice in perceiving the approach of the kingdom
of God. This is the proper use of the prophetic word. It was thus that the
ancients used it, and were enabled to live in advance of their contemporaries.
This appears from the exhortation of the apostle who says, 'We have a sure word
of prophecy, whereunto ye do well to take heed, as unto a light that shineth in
a dark place until the day dawn and the day-star arise..." [2Pe 1:19]. Some were
not unmindful of this exhortation, which is as applicable to us as to them; for
the day has not yet dawned, nor has the day-star arisen" (Elp).
THE LION HAS ROARED -- WHO WILL NOT FEAR?: Cp Amos 1:2;
THE SOVEREIGN LORD HAS SPOKEN -- WHO CAN BUT PROPHESY?:
Indeed, how could the mouthpiece of the "Lion" not prophesy since Yahweh had
spoken? Just as the prey is powerless in the jaws of the great lion, so the
prophet Amos is powerless in the grip of divine inspiration -- he must declare
the LORD's message!
Balaam, imperfect "prophet" that he was, seems to have felt
this same overwhelming compulsion (Num 22--24), so that regardless of his desire
for reward (2Pe 2:15), he was forced to speak the words of God. This observation
demonstrates the power of God in inspiring the writers of the scriptures. The
prophets clearly were, at the times of their prophesyings, quite unable to
influence the words that they spoke by the action of their own will.
PROCLAIM TO THE FORTRESSES OF ASHDOD AND TO THE FORTRESSES
OF EGYPT: The Gentiles, specifically the Philistines and the Egyptians, are
called to come and witness what the LORD will do to His OWN people because they
have turned their back on Him!
ASSEMBLE YOURSELVES ON THE MOUNTAINS OF SAMARIA; SEE THE
GREAT UNREST WITHIN HER AND THE OPPRESSION AMONG HER PEOPLE: At Samaria
these Gentiles would witness great tumults, not the peace and order that should
have prevailed, and oppressions within Samaria. The Israelites were assaulting
and robbing one another; the rich were taking advantage of the poor.
If these sins in God's own Land can call forth His righteous
judgments, think what such sins might do in the lands of the Gentiles who do not
even claim to serve the God of Israel? "For it is time for judgment to begin
with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for
those who do not obey the gospel of God?" (1Pe 4:17).
WHO HOARD PLUNDER AND LOOT IN THEIR FORTRESSES: At
least, the heathens plunder and loot their enemies -- not their own
AN ENEMY WILL OVERRUN THE LAND; HE WILL PULL DOWN YOUR
STRONGHOLDS AND PLUNDER YOUR FORTRESSES: The Sovereign Yahweh announced that
an enemy that would surround the land of Israel would destroy and loot its
impressive fortresses. That enemy proved to be Assyria, which besieged and
destroyed Samaria and overran all Israel in 722 BC.
AS A SHEPHERD SAVES FROM THE LION'S MOUTH ONLY TWO LEG
BONES OR A PIECE OF AN EAR: God Himself is the Shepherd of Israel, but so
great will the depredations be that the only thing left behind will be that
which is too small and inconsequential to be noticed by the beast of prey.
In practical terms, only a very few and very poor will be left
in the Land, to tend vines and fields, etc (2Ki 25:12).
THE EDGE OF THEIR BEDS AND... THEIR COUCHES: This
phrase is difficult. Perhaps it suggests that an invading army will nothing to
the inhabitants of the land except something like a scrap of blanket, or a scrap
of broken furniture.
I WILL DESTROY THE ALTARS OF BETHEL: God now promised
to destroy the pagan altars that Jeroboam I had erected at Bethel at the same
time He destroyed the people of Israel (cf 1Ki 12:26-30). This altar, and the
one in Dan, had taken the place of the one in Jerusalem for most of the
Israelites. The one in Bethel was the most popular religious center in Israel.
There the Israelites practiced apostate worship.
THE HORNS OF THE ALTAR WILL BE CUT OFF AND FALL TO THE
GROUND: The horns of this altar, symbolic of the strength of its deity,
would be cut off and would fall to the ground showing its impotence. The horns
of an altar were also places of asylum in the ancient Near East (1Ki1:50), so
their cutting off pictures no asylum for the Israelites when God's judgment
THE WINTER HOUSE... THE SUMMER HOUSE... ADORNED WITH
IVORY... THE MANSIONS: They had embellished their great houses with
expensive ivory decorations (1Ki 21:1,18; 22:39; Psa 45:8). The two great sins
of the Israelites, false religion (v 14) and misuse of wealth and power (v 15),
would be the objects of God's judgment. "How the flesh loves these monuments of
unfaithful stewardship!" (Ber 66:25).
"The enduring principle here is that God will destroy
elaborate altars, expensive houses, and other accoutrements of an extravagant
lifestyle when these items are acquired through oppression, fraud, and
strong-arm tactics. The idolatry of the people led to their opulent lifestyles.
Life apart from God may yield temporary material gain, but it will surely result
in eternal loss" (Smith, cited in Const).