The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Amos 4

Amo 4:1

HEAR THIS WORD, YOU COWS OF BASHAN: Amos addressed the wealthy women of Samaria, calling them "cows of Bashan". Bashan was a very luxuriant region of Transjordan east and northeast of the Sea of Chinnereth (Galilee) where cattle had plenty to eat and grew fat (cp Psa 22:12; Jer 50:11,19; Eze 39:18; Mic 7:14; Deu 32:14,15).

ON MOUNT SAMARIA: The mountain is mentioned, as though it afforded them some kind of security -- which surely it didn't.

YOU WOMEN WHO OPPRESS THE POOR AND CRUSH THE NEEDY: These women, by the silly and selfish demands they made upon their husbands, were in effect oppressing the poor and crushing the needy.

AND SAY TO YOUR HUSBANDS: There is a sharp irony here: the word "husbands" is "adonim" -- LORDS, or MASTERS! But who were the "masters" in these households? Certainly not the men!

"BRING US SOME DRINKS!": In the heights of laziness and self-indulgence, they were even ordering their husbands to wait on them and bring them drinks.

Amo 4:2

THE TIME WILL SURELY COME WHEN YOU WILL BE TAKEN AWAY WITH HOOKS, THE LAST OF YOU WITH FISHHOOKS: An enemy would cart them off as butchers carry beef with large meat hooks and as fishermen carry fish with hooks. They would become so much "meat on the hoof"! This description may imply that the enemy would tie them in lines with ropes and lead them away -- since this is how fishermen strung their fish on lines. Alternatively it may mean that their bodies would be treated as nothing but "dead meat"!

Amo 4:3

YOU WILL EACH GO STRAIGHT OUT THROUGH BREAKS IN THE WALL: The enemy would carry the bodies of these women (living or dead) off through breaches in Samaria's walls. The women would be carried off without any complications; each one would go straight ahead to captivity or to burial through any one of the many passageways made through the broken walls.

TOWARD HARMON: There are two possibilities: (1) Mount Hermon, toward the north, the direction the Assyrians took the Israelite captives as they deported them to Assyria; or (2) Heb "harmon" sig "oppression" -- as though the mount of Samaria, in which they trusted (v 1), would instead be a mount of oppression for them!

Amo 4:4

Vv 4,5: An ironical indictment of their hypocritical practices. A show of piety, but behind the scenes, a gross individual self-indulgence.

GO TO BETHEL AND SIN: Ironically the Lord told these sinful Israelites to go to Bethel but to transgress, not to worship. Such a call parodied the summons of Israel's priests to come to the sanctuary to worship (Psa 95:6; 96:8-9; 100:2-4). Bethel was the most popular religious site in Israel, but Yahweh looked at what the people did there as transgressing His law rather than worshipping Him.

GO TO GILGAL, AND SIN YET MORE: Another worship center, and the place where the Israelites had entered the Promised Land and had erected memorial stones (Josh 4:20-24). Visited by pilgrims, who sacrificed there in Amos' day (Amo 5:5; Hos 4:15; 9:15; 12:11). At Gilgal (from Heb "galal", to roll) God had rolled away the reproach of Egypt from His people (Josh 5:9), but now they were bringing reproach on themselves again by their behavior at Gilgal.

BRING YOUR SACRIFICES EVERY MORNING, YOUR TITHES EVERY THREE YEARS: Lit, "your tithes on the third day" -- poss ironical again: ie, 'No matter how often you bring your tithes, it will not be enough!'

Amo 4:6

I GAVE YOU EMPTY STOMACHS: This is interpretive: the Heb is, lit, "cleanness of teeth" -- as though there were no food at all!

YET YOU HAVE NOT RETURNED TO ME: Famine was one of the curses that God said He might bring if His people proved unfaithful to His covenant (Lev 26:26,29; Deut 28:17,48). But it was all to no avail; still they did not repent.

Amo 4:7

Vv 7,8: Drought was also a punishment for Israel's unfaithfulness (Lev 26:19; Deut 28:22-24,48). But still they did not repent.

Amo 4:9

V 9: Yahweh sent plant diseases and insects to blight their gardens, vineyards, and fruit trees, yet they did not return to Him (1Ki 8:37). These were also threatened judgments in the Mosaic Covenant (Lev 26:20; Deut 28:18,22,30,38-40,42).

Amo 4:10

V 10: Wars had brought various plagues on the Israelites, and many of their soldiers had died (cp 1Ki 8:33,37). The plagues on the Israelites should have made them conclude that God was now judging them. God had plagued His people as He formerly had plagued the Egyptians. The stench of dead bodies should have led the people to repent, but it did not (cp Lev 26:16-17,25,31-39; Deut 28:21,22,25-27,35,49-52,59-61; 29:23-28).

PLAGUES... AS I DID TO EGYPT: Prob bubonic plague, from the Nile River's unhealthy delta (Deu 28:60; HistGeo 120).

Amo 4:11

SODOM AND GOMORRAH: Sym complete, utter destruction (Isa 1:9; 13:19; Jer 50:40; Zeph 2:9).

A BURNING STICK SNATCHED FROM THE FIRE: Just as Yahweh had rescued Lot and his daughters from Sodom (Gen 19).

Amo 4:12

PREPARE TO MEET YOUR GOD, O ISRAEL: The Israelites should prepare to meet their God because they had failed to repent (cf Exod 19:10-19; 2Co 5:10). He would confront them with even greater punishments (cf Amo 3:11-15; generally, Isa 47:3 and Mat 24:45-51). The prophet's call was a solemn summons to judgment, not a call to repentance or an invitation to covenant renewal.

Amo 4:13


"In one bold sweep, this hymn shows the sovereignty of God -- from his creation of the world to his daily summoning of the dawn, from his intervention in history to his revelation of mankind's thoughts. Every believer can take comfort in the fact that, while sometimes it seems that God does not interfere in human affairs, the world is never out of his control. His sovereignty extends to every aspect of human experience" (McComiskey).

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