Unseal the Indictment!
Amos 1:1-2; 2:6-8; 3:6-8,13-15
Tom J. Nettles
I. Chapter1:1 – 2:3 – An avalanche of
unrelenting judgment against all nations surrounding
A. Verse 1, 2 –
1. Amos Identified – The first of the writing prophets. Given the dates of King Uzziah [792-740 BC] and Jeroboam [793-753 BC] and that no other kings are mentioned the prophecy occurred during a forty year period, or perhaps for as few as two years. Amos was from the South but prophesied to the North. He was a shepherd and a horticulturist called of God to bring a message of eventual judgment to Israel at a time of great prosperity and apparent stability [7:12-16]. The internal injustice [5:10, 12, 15, 24], greed [5:11; 6:6], and idolatry [5:25-27], however, was securing a certain judgment for the future.
2. The ferocity of God in his pronouncement of judgment against the peoples around Israel – This image is borne out in the rest of the prophecy. The Lord roars is the image of an enraged lion; His voice uttering from Jerusalem, means both that the prophecy is being spoken from one in the southern kingdom and also that the place where God ordained legitimate worship and sacrifice is being ignored by the North. Pastures were vital to the whole well-being of the economy and culture. When they “mourned” the entire nation soon would feel the impact. The Bible uses Mt. Carmel as a symbol of beauty, lush productivity, and fertility. It was there also that Elijah had brought the prophets of Baal to naught and defeated them so soundly that the people rose up and slaughtered them. Isaiah 35:2 pictures the restoration of the ransomed as compared to the “majesty” or the "splendor” of Carmel. The most beautiful images Solomon could combine in his description of the allure of his beloved included "your head crowns you like Mount Carmel" (Song 7:5). But for Carmel to wither was a sign of devastating judgment. See also Nahum 1:4 for this image.
B. Judgment of the Nations – These prophecies show that the God of Israel is the God of all nations. See Isaiah 34 for this also. Though he is not in special covenant with them, they nevertheless are responsible to him for their actions. All cruelty and injustice of all people in all places will be judged when the nations stand before him. The formula “For three transgressions . . . and for four” indicates both the patience of God and the spiral of iniquity that continually engaged the policy of the nation with the consequent accumulation of wrath against this day of judgment [cf. Romans 2:4, 5]
1. Damascus – 1:3-5: This city that represents the actions of Syria. Its aggressiveness and cruelty have made it noxious to the Lord and he pronounces judgments on it. The fulfillment of this prophecy is recorded in 2 Kings 16:5-9.
2. Gaza – 1:6-8 – These cities of the Philistines along the western coast contiguous to Judah had provided consistent opposition to them. This judgment against Philistia is described in its consummation in Jeremiah 47
3. Tyre - 1:9, 10 – This prophecy against Tyre is expanded in Joel 3:4ff. This city was in Phoenicia also on the west coast. They had been treacherous against Judah and had sold Judah’s people to Edom.
4. Edom - 1:11, 12 – The judgment against Edom goes back to the wrath of Esau against Jacob. Their hostility to their blood kin is especially treacherous in not allowing them passage at a critical time [Numbers 20:14-21]. Edom threatened Israel on its escape from Egypt and on the verge of entering into its promised land after the wandering of forty years. This judgment against Edom is expanded in Obadiah and in Jeremiah 49:7-22. By the time of Malachi 1:3-5, this judgment has taken place.
5. Ammonites – 1:13-15 – The Ammonites were east of Israel contiguous to the tribes of Gad and Reuben. This judgment is also reiterated in Jeremiah 49:1-6, closing with a word of some reprieve. Also see Ezekiel 21:28-32.
6. Moab – 2:1-3 – Jeremiah 47:1-47 is given to a description of the judgment against Moab. Moab is the country from which Ruth emerged to enter into the nation of Israel and merge into the line that produced David and eventually Jesus the Messiah.
II. Judgment on Judah – 2:4, 5 – These verses forecast the coming judgment on Judah also, because of their having rejected the law of God, even though this was during the time of king Uzziah, whose reign was faithful and greatly blessed until he was struck with leprosy because of his violation of the prerogative of the priests. [2 Chronicles 26]. The Babylonians would lay siege to Jerusalem, slaughter many of the inhabitants, and begin the deportation of its finest most capable young people. [Jeremiah 39:1-10]
III. Judgment on Israel – 2:6-16
A. He uses the same formula for Israel that he has used for all the other nations and then delineates some specific examples of their rebellion and perversity: verses 6-8
1. Their greed and covetousness has made them brutal and unjust. The righteous, the needy, and the poor are disregarded and pushed down for the sake of material advantage to the powerful. 6b-7a
2. The pursuit of pleasure has made them prodigiously unnatural in that a man and his father will commit fornication with the same female. – 7b
3. They flaunt their injustice and show their utter corruption by taking the spoils of their greed, the materials gained through unwarranted seizure simply on the basis of power, into their places of idolatrous worship. 8
B. God reminds them that every good thing they have is from him. Verses 9-12.
1. God destroyed the powerful Amorites, more potent and skilled than the Israelites, and gave them victory over a vastly superior force.
2. God, in a show of mighty power, led them from Egypt, sustained them in the wilderness, and gave them the land.
3. God had made their sons the special emissaries of his word, as prophets, and to bear in their lives the marks of being the people of God, Nazirites.
4. The People at large, however, did not count this privilege as a treasure to be protected and heeded, but sought to make the Nazirites break their vows and expressed resistance to the message of the prophets.
C. Verses 13-16 – None of the natural strengths possessed by the Israelites will be of any help to them when God brings his judgment on them. Neither speed, strength, skill in battle, or natural courage will be of any avail when God comes forth in wrath.
III. Through the Prophet Amos, God renews his statement of impending judgment on Israel verses 1-15
A. Because of God’s special involvement with Israel, and the great privileges they have had, he will pay equally special attention to their iniquity. The iniquity of other nations, he punishes in accordance with their light—the light of nature and the light of conscience, that is, the law written on the heart. But Israel has had special revelation and offices and worship given to it. They have those among them that have seen the glory of God, and they were commissioned to be a light to the nations. Their sin, therefore, is even more dreadful in light of their privileges.
B. God points to the reality that the world operates in accordance with cause and effect. Verses 3-5
C. The ultimate cause of all things is God. His purpose and thus his decrees are transcendent, though he has decreed that many of the things he wills come through immanent means, even through the wiles and actions of wicked men. So as Amos concludes his reminder that all events presuppose a vitally connected cause, so disaster comes to a city because the Lord has done it. This conclusion meets with objections from a variety of quarters, but verse 6b, along with other events described in the minor prophets and elsewhere demonstrate that this is the biblical worldview [Acts 2:23; Ephesians 1:11] What Amos has in mind in particular is the judgment that will come in the form of a brutal attack from a hostile nation. Verse 2 says “I will punish you.” Verse 6 asks the rhetorical question, “Does disaster come to a city unless the Lord has done it?”
D. That God is the one engaged in the infliction of the coming disaster is reiterated by the fact that he has revealed this to the prophets (verses 7, 8). No one can predict a future event as a certain fact without control over that event. Verse 8 employs the image that he has introduced in verse 4. The roaring of the lion means that he has a prey. It also continues the image of a withering prophecy introduced in 1:2. Verse 11 gives the content of the prophecy. Verse 9 calls on other cultures that experienced God’s invasion of their strongholds to observe as he does the same to Samaria. Verse 12 indicates that only a remnant will escape with their lives.
E. Verse 13 the Lord call on Amos to testify against the house of Jacob., Verse 14 points to the false worship that was practiced in the Northern Kingdom since its inception is foundational to this judgment and those places will be struck with fury. Verse 15 indicates that the symbols of the oppressive opulence of the rich will be destroyed.