"The Twelve"

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Amos means "Burden-bearer," which is precisely the characteristic of his prophecy. The title given to this book is Injustices Demanding Justice. Amos prophesied during a period of unprecedented political expansion and economic prosperity (cf. 2 Kings 14:23–29). He was sent by the Lord to call Israel to spiritual reformation and practical preacher who stands out among the Twelve as the chief covenant reformer.

Contrary to some, Amos does not fit the profile of an uneducated shepherd. First, he was "among" the shepherds of Tekoa (cf. Amos 1:1). Second, the Hebrew word used (בּוֹקֵר) does not describe the lowly occupation of a rural shepherd. In 2 Kings 3:4, it is translated "sheep breeder," which may allude to the more prestigious status of a herd owner and breeder. Therefore, Amos was at least a member of the affluent class of Judah as the owner of cattle, sheep, and goats (cf. Amos 7:14). This will accentuate his message and prove to furnish insight into the financial and political injustices of Judah.

Background and Setting

Amos prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah (also known as Amaziah) king of Judah (792–740 BC) and Jeroboam 13th king of Israel (793–753). Approximately 700 years have elapsed since Torah was given to Israel, which is conservatively approximate to at least 25 generations. In the late ninth century BC (805–802), the Assyrian king Adad-nirari III (811–784), crippled the Aramean city-states bordering the north of Israel. Consequently, Israel expereienced unprecedented political expansion and economic prosperity (2 Kgs 14:23–29). Judah expanded south and east, subduing Edom, Ammon, Moab, the Philistines, the Arabs of Gur–baal, and the Mehunims, which facilitated the introduction of Edom’s gods. Israel carried on trade with Egypt, Arabia, Byblos, and Syria and dominated the King’s highway, creating an unparalleled prosperity especially among the affluent (cf. Amos 3:15; 5:11; 6:4; 8:4-6).

The nation’s prosperity became an opportunity for pride (Uzziah’s pride brought his fall), selfishness, greed, oppression, and moral decadence (approx. 760 BC). It was also a time of injustice, idolatry, extravagance, and corruption. Amos was known as the spokesman par excellence of social justice and equity among the underprivileged in society. He was not merely a champion of the oppressed, he was first and foremost a defender of the cause of the Lord. The oracles regarded Israel as guilty of covenant violations in her injustices. Thus, mere social injustice is not the primary issue, covenant unfaithfulness is and more particularly confronts failure to reflect the moral righteousness of God in relation to Him by grace. Israel was uniquely God’s people, called into an intimate relationship by covenant with Him (cf. Amos 3:2). "Israel’s failure to present to the Lord a true and living faith and their attempt to foist upon Him the wretched substitute of mere empty profession could lead only to the utter ruin and destruction of the nation." [1]

Indeed, the message of Amos is striking, "Israel will be judged first of all — and by the highest standards." [2] Rather than starting with Israel and a man-centered paradigm, we should begin with the Lord and view Amos from the perspective of God's faithfulness. Thus, Israel's unfaithfulness is seen against the background and thrust of the Lord's covenant faithfulness.  "The central theme of his prophecy was Yawheh’s faithfulness to His covenant and to His holy law, and the strict accountability of His people Israel to a practical observance of their covenant obligations." [3]

The Need for Covenant Reformation

ESV Deuteronomy 23:17 "None of the daughters of Israel shall be a cult prostitute, and none of the sons of Israel shall be a cult prostitute. 18 You shall not bring the fee of a prostitute or the wages of a dog into the house of the LORD your God in payment for any vow, for both of these are an abomination to the LORD your God.

ESV Amos 2:7 those who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth and turn aside the way of the afflicted; a man and his father go in to the same girl, so that my holy name is profaned;

ESV Exodus 22:26 If ever you take your neighbor's cloak in pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down,

ESV Amos 2:8 they lay themselves down beside every altar on garments taken in pledge, and in the house of their God they drink the wine of those who have been fined.

ESV Numbers 6:1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 "Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When either a man or a woman makes a special vow, the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to the LORD, 3 he shall separate himself from wine and strong drink.

ESV Amos 2:12 "But you made the Nazirites drink wine, and commanded the prophets, saying, 'You shall not prophesy.'

ESV Deuteronomy 14:28 "At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns.

ESV Amos 4:4 "Come to Bethel, and transgress; to Gilgal, and multiply transgression; bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three days;

ESV Leviticus 2:11 "No grain offering that you bring to the LORD shall be made with leaven, for you shall burn no leaven nor any honey as a food offering to the LORD.

ESV Leviticus 7:13 With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving he shall bring his offering with loaves of leavened bread.

ESV Amos 4:5 offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving of that which is leavened, and proclaim freewill offerings, publish them; for so you love to do, O people of Israel!" declares the Lord GOD.

The Nations

It is significant that God is charging Israel with abusing the nations! Rather than serving as a priestly nation and a holy people that would model the righteousness of God and beauty of His goodness, they defrauded the Lord what He deserves and took advantage of the nations in their privileged position. In chapter 2, the Lord effectively declares that they have His name, they have His word, and they do not live according to Him.

Thus, Amos is called to confront this particular category of sin. Where Joel ends, Amos begins (cf. Joel 3:16; Amos 1:2).

Injustic

The upper class gained and maintained its social status through violence (3:9–10)

ESV Amos 3:9 Proclaim to the strongholds in Ashdod and to the strongholds in the land of Egypt, and say, "Assemble yourselves on the mountains of Samaria, and see the great tumults within her, and the oppressed in her midst." 10 "They do not know how to do right," declares the LORD, "those who store up violence and robbery in their strongholds."

They crushed the poor (4:1)

ESV Amos 4:1 "Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on the mountain of Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to your husbands, 'Bring, that we may drink!'

Imposed heavy taxes (5:11)

ESV Amos 5:11 Therefore because you trample on the poor and you exact taxes of grain from him, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not dwell in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine.

The poor had to sell themselves into slavery to pay off trivial debts (2:6; 8:6)

ESV Amos 2:6 Thus says the LORD: "For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals--

ESV Amos 8:6 that we may buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals and sell the chaff of the wheat?"

The rich had increased their wealth through falsified weights (8:5)

ESV Amos 8:5 saying, "When will the new moon be over, that we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, that we may offer wheat for sale, that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great and deal deceitfully with false balances

Dishonest trade (8:6)

ESV Amos 8:6 that we may buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals and sell the chaff of the wheat?"

Even the courts, what would normally be reckoned as the last bastion of hope for the poor, were corrupt, as judges were bribed to cheat the poor (2:7; 5:10, 12)

ESV Amos 2:7 those who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth and turn aside the way of the afflicted; a man and his father go in to the same girl, so that my holy name is profaned;

ESV Amos 5:10 They hate him who reproves in the gate, and they abhor him who speaks the truth.

ESV Amos 5:12 For I know how many are your transgressions and how great are your sins-- you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and turn aside the needy in the gate.

Israel was in fact no longer capable of executing justice (3:10; cp. 5:7; 6:12)

ESV Amos 3:10 "They do not know how to do right," declares the LORD, "those who store up violence and robbery in their strongholds."

ESV Amos 5:7 O you who turn justice to wormwood and cast down righteousness to the earth!

ESV Amos 6:12 Do horses run on rocks? Does one plow there with oxen? But you have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood--

As a consquence to their flagerant infidelity to their privileged covenant, there is a certain surety of future judgment. In the end, the message makes plain: "If you continue in sin, the Day of the Lord will be darkness to you!"

ESV Amos 5:18 Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! Why would you have the day of the LORD? It is darkness, and not light,

What’s the point of Amos: it is the last beacon of hope for Israel, it is a call to repentance; otherwise God’s judgment would surely come.

There is portrayed here a great and serious danger, that appears native to the heart of humanity in all times and places: prosperity makes rebellion against God easier. There was already famine, drought, plagues, death, destruction, etc. → it was as though nothing could bring Israel to her knees in repentance.

This leads to the sure prophecy of Israel’s destruction and exile by Assyria:

ESV Amos 7:11 For thus Amos has said, "'Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from his land.'"

God will judge.

Worship

ESV Amos 5:21 "I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. 22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. 23 Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen.

ESV Matthew 5:23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Main Purpose

ESV Amos 5:14 Seek good, and not evil, that you may live; and so the LORD, the God of hosts, will be with you, as you have said. 15 Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

Yet, in approximately one generation (3 decades):

Assyrian kings Tiglath-pileser III, Shalmaneser, and Sargon

ESV 2 Kings 15:29 In the days of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria came and captured Ijon, Abel-beth-maacah, Janoah, Kedesh, Hazor, Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali, and he carried the people captive to Assyria.

ESV 2 Kings 17:3 Against him came up Shalmaneser king of Assyria. And Hoshea became his vassal and paid him tribute. 4 But the king of Assyria found treachery in Hoshea, for he had sent messengers to So, king of Egypt, and offered no tribute to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year. Therefore the king of Assyria shut him up and bound him in prison. 5 Then the king of Assyria invaded all the land and came to Samaria, and for three years he besieged it. 6 In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria, and he carried the Israelites away to Assyria and placed them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.

Lesson on context:

ESV Amos 4:2 The Lord GOD has sworn by his holiness that, behold, the days are coming upon you, when they shall take you away with hooks, even the last of you with fishhooks.

ESV Amos 4:12 "Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!"

The Inevitable Judgment of the Lord (1:3-2:16; 3:11-15; 4:12-13; 5:16-17; 6:8-14; 7:17; 8:1-9:10)

Key Verses

ESV Amos 3:1 Hear this word that the LORD has spoken against you, O people of Israel, against the whole family that I brought up out of the land of Egypt: 2 "You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.

ESV Amos 8:11 "Behold, the days are coming," declares the Lord GOD, "when I will send a famine on the land-- not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD. 12 They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the LORD, but they shall not find it.

Conclusion

ESV Amos 9:11 "In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old,

"in that day" when Israel is finally desolate (drunk in all their due wrath)

Typical of the prophets, Amos ends on a note of hope and restoration of the Davidic house and and for the nations!

Chapter Summaries

Ch. 1: Judgment pronounced from Jerusalem against Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, and the sons of Ammon

Ch. 2: Judgment pronounced against Moab, Judah, and Israel

Ch. 3: Indictment against the sons of Israel; What is about to happen is from Yahweh

Ch. 4: A charge against Israel to see all that God has done, yet Israel did not return to Yahweh

Ch. 5: Yahweh's dirge over Israel; Call to seek Yahweh that they may live; Day of the Lord will be doom

Ch. 6: Warning and woe to those who are at ease in Zion and secure in Samaria

Ch. 7: God shows Amos visions that warn of coming judgment against Israel; Amos told to leave

Ch. 8: Object lesson with the basket of summer fruit; Warning that the days of judgment are coming

Ch. 9: There is no escape from Yahweh's judgment and no thwarting His promises, even of restoration

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