Amos Continues His Oracles
7. Judah (Amos 2:4-5) is also condemned along with the heathen nations. People have often claimed that God had favorites, but these prophecies show that God is fair in dealing with the nations. All would suffer similar consequences if they failed to live up to what the world at large knows as plain human decency—moral principles transmitted down from God's earliest revelations to man. God is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). But the condemnation of Judah is for more than violating common human decency. The inhabitants of Judah, like those of Israel, were God's covenant people. Their special relationship with Him made them even more accountable than the gentile nations. They were to obey God's law, but rejected it (verse 4). In fact, they even followed false gods when, more than anyone, they should have known better. The devouring fire prophesied for the gentile nations is seen here coming against Judah too. And while Judah was overrun by Nebuchadnezzar, (2 Kings 24-25), who did burn Jerusalem (2 Kings 25:9), this prophecy is almost certainly for the end time as well.
8. Israel now becomes the object of Amos' correction. And it was to Israelites that he was preaching at Bethel. Concerning his oracles, The Bible Reader's Companion states: "Amos begins with the most distant nation, and then, in a wide swing, moves to lands circling Israel. One can almost hear the delighted 'Yes! Yes!' of his listeners as they hear the prophet denounce one enemy after another. But then, unexpectedly, the prophet pounces. The severest condemnation of all is reserved for Israel itself. How his listeners' hearts must have sunk as Amos' finger at last pointed directly at them!" (Amos 1-2 summary).
He begins with their sins against society (Amos 2:6-8). They have become so hardened through their disobedience to God and following false religion that God's ways of righteousness and mercy no longer influence their thinking. The "righteous" being sold here simply means those who are in the right—they should have justice on their side but are condemned as guilty. Bribery takes the place of true justice. The language in the Hebrew here strongly suggests that litigation is the main issue. "Either a bribe as small as a pair of shoes is enough to swing the verdict, or a debt as small as that of a pair of shoes is enough to bring a man into the dock: such is the covetousness of the community" (New Bible Commentary: Revised, 1970, note on verse 6)
Amos then reminds Israel of God's gracious acts towards them throughout their history. They have ignored Him as a source of needed help and would suffer the consequences (Amos 2:6-16).
In chapter 3, Amos quotes God as saying, "You only have I known" (verse 2), which, "in this context, means 'You only have I chosen.' God's relationship with Israel was not only intimate, it was exclusive. God had been faithful to Israel; yet Israel had not been faithful to God. For this reason, the nation would be judged" (Nelson Study Bible, note on verse 2). God then asks the question, perhaps the most well-known quotation from the book, "Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?" (verse 3)—that is, unless they continue in general agreement. Others translate the verse a little differently: "Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?" (NIV). The answer to either question is a resounding no. Israel and God had an agreement that they would walk together, but Israel broke the covenant and the law of cause and effect comes into play. That's the point of verses 3-6—each effect must have a cause. "It follows that disaster is an effect of some action, in this case action by the Lord.... It should have been clear to Israel that their sufferings were God's messengers, warning them against their sins. We are not to take every personal disaster as a warning of judgment or judgment itself. But we are to examine ourselves to discover if anything in our lives might have moved God to act" (Bible Reader's Companion, note on verses 3-6).
Verse 7 is one of the most important statements about prophecy in the Bible: "Surely the Lord God does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets." God is not cruel and uncaring. If He is going to punish a nation, He will let them know in advance to give them an opportunity to repent (Ezekiel 3:17; Ezekiel 33; Jeremiah 18:7-8). And if a true servant of God understands a revelation or warning from God, he cannot keep it to himself. Both his fear of God and his concern for people compel him to preach and pass along God's message (Amos 3:8; Amos 7:14-15; 1 Corinthians 9:16; Matthew 10:27).
In verse 9 of Amos 3, God calls the Egyptians and Philistines to witness His judgment on Israel, implying that Israel is even worse than they were. While they had attacked other nations, Israel's oppression was against its own people. Moreover, "they had not received God's revelation at Sinai; yet Israel, having received it, had violated it grossly and repeatedly" (Nelson, note on Amos 3:9-10). Indeed, the Israelites' morality was so warped that they no longer knew to do right (verse 10). As the chapter ends, Amos' prophecy deals specifically with two major problem areas in Israel—false religion (verse 14) and the importance attached to wealth and power (verse 15).