Bible Commentary: Amos 4-5

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Amos 4-5

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Six Calamities on Israel and God’s Judgment

Amos again reminded Israel of the way God had dealt with them since they came out of Egypt and how they had ignored the warnings. God would now destroy Israel as a political power, saying, in effect, “enough is enough.” God then lists six calamities to come upon Israel (Amos 4:6-11 Amos 4:6-11 [6] And I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and want of bread in all your places: yet have you not returned to me, said the LORD. [7] And also I have withheld the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest: and I caused it to rain on one city, and caused it not to rain on another city: one piece was rained on, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered. [8] So two or three cities wandered to one city, to drink water; but they were not satisfied: yet have you not returned to me, said the LORD. [9] I have smitten you with blasting and mildew: when your gardens and your vineyards and your fig trees and your olive trees increased, the palmerworm devoured them: yet have you not returned to me, said the LORD. [10] I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt: your young men have I slain with the sword, and have taken away your horses; and I have made the stink of your camps to come up to your nostrils: yet have you not returned to me, said the LORD. [11] I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning: yet have you not returned to me, said the LORD.
American King James Version×
): famine (verse 6); drought (verses 7-8); crop destruction (verse 9); plague (verse 10); defeat in war (verse 10) and fiery destruction of cities comparable to what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah (verse 11). This final calamity tells us that the prophecy is for the end time, as this did not happen in the destruction of ancient Israel by the Assyrians. Ezekiel 6:6 Ezekiel 6:6In all your dwelling places the cities shall be laid waste, and the high places shall be desolate; that your altars may be laid waste and made desolate, and your idols may be broken and cease, and your images may be cut down, and your works may be abolished.
American King James Version×
makes it even more plain: “In all your dwelling places the cities shall be laid waste.” Referring to major cities of our day, this seems to signal nuclear devastation or some as yet unknown means of mass destruction.

God says, “Therefore thus will I do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!” (verse 12). For some, this will be by death. But for the rest, it means God soon coming to earth—i.e., in the end-time return of Jesus Christ. “To be confronted—inescapably—by the God it had scorned and rejected would be a fate more terrible than Israel could imagine” (Nelson Study Bible, note on verse 12). In chapter 5, God lists a seventh calamity through Amos: captivity (Amos 5:3 Amos 5:3For thus said the Lord GOD; The city that went out by a thousand shall leave an hundred, and that which went forth by an hundred shall leave ten, to the house of Israel.
American King James Version×
), a punishment mentioned in Amos 4:2-3 Amos 4:2-3 [2] The Lord GOD has sworn by his holiness, that, see, the days shall come on you, that he will take you away with hooks, and your posterity with fishhooks. [3] And you shall go out at the breaches, every cow at that which is before her; and you shall cast them into the palace, said the LORD.
American King James Version×
and made clearer in Amos 6:7 Amos 6:7Therefore now shall they go captive with the first that go captive, and the banquet of them that stretched themselves shall be removed.
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. In Amos 5:3 Amos 5:3For thus said the Lord GOD; The city that went out by a thousand shall leave an hundred, and that which went forth by an hundred shall leave ten, to the house of Israel.
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, we are told that of those who go into captivity, only a tenth will survive (compare Isaiah 6:11-13 Isaiah 6:11-13 [11] Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, [12] And the LORD have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the middle of the land. [13] But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof.
American King James Version×
, Living Bible).

God explains that He is the ultimate power to whom Israel should look—not their false gods. Interesting in His proclamations is a mention of the hydrological cycle of evaporation and rain, also referred to elsewhere in Scripture (compare Ecclesiastes 11:3 Ecclesiastes 11:3If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves on the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falls, there it shall be.
American King James Version×
; Job 36:27-29 Job 36:27-29 [27] For he makes small the drops of water: they pour down rain according to the vapor thereof: [28] Which the clouds do drop and distil on man abundantly. [29] Also can any understand the spreading of the clouds, or the noise of his tabernacle?
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). One might wonder how this could have been so accurately understood by ancient authors—thus perhaps providing further evidence of God’s inspiration of Scripture.

In Amos 5:18-20 Amos 5:18-20 [18] Woe to you that desire the day of the LORD! to what end is it for you? the day of the LORD is darkness, and not light. [19] As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him. [20] Shall not the day of the LORD be darkness, and not light? even very dark, and no brightness in it?
American King James Version×
, God issues a warning through Amos to those desiring the Day of the Lord, for that Day will bring judgment on the disobedient—and they themselves were thoroughly disobedient, just as modern Israel is today. “The lesson for us is clear. Look eagerly for Christ’s return—but not if you’re living a life of sin” (Bible Reader’s Companion, note on verses 18-20). It should be noted that while these prophecies are primarily for the end of this age, we can certainly see a secondary relevance for those to whom Amos preached—against whom an invasion by the Assyrian Empire was imminent. We can even envision the worshipers at Bethel cringing as Amos foretold its destruction, along with that of other centers of false worship in Gilgal and Beersheba (verses 5-6). In mentioning Beersheba, Judah is condemned along with Israel. These places of false worship serve as types of great houses of false worship in the end time. The true God is not to be found in them, but in seeking “good and not evil” (verse 14). And this, of course, is to be found in the revealed Word of God.

Israel of Amos’ day had forsaken God and all His ways as found in His Word. For instance, since the days of Jeroboam I, Israel had her own feast days, which God utterly despised (compare verse 21). He had told them before that they should not look to the pagan nations and copy their modes of worship (Exodus 23:24 Exodus 23:24You shall not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their works: but you shall utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images.
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, Exodus 23:33 Exodus 23:33They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me: for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.
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; Deuteronomy 12:29-32 Deuteronomy 12:29-32 [29] When the LORD your God shall cut off the nations from before you, where you go to possess them, and you succeed them, and dwell in their land; [30] Take heed to yourself that you be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before you; and that you inquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. [31] You shall not do so to the LORD your God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hates, have they done to their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods. [32] What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: you shall not add thereto, nor diminish from it.
American King James Version×
; Jeremiah 10:1-4 Jeremiah 10:1-4 [1] Hear you the word which the LORD speaks to you, O house of Israel: [2] Thus said the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. [3] For the customs of the people are vain: for one cuts a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. [4] They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.
American King James Version×
), but that’s just what they did. Likewise, today, the nations of modern Israel have forsaken God’s biblically commanded Sabbaths and Holy Days for pagan celebrations such as Christmas and Easter (Astarte). For more information on the pagan origins of these holidays, see our free booklet, Holidays or Holy Days: Does It Matter Which Days We Observe?

Furthermore, God did not and does not want any worship that is “hypocritical, dishonest, and meaningless” (Nelson, note on Amos 5:21-23 Amos 5:21-23 [21] I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. [22] Though you offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. [23] Take you away from me the noise of your songs; for I will not hear the melody of your viols.
American King James Version×
)—whether offerings, music or anything else. “After dismissing Israel’s empty worship as noisy and tumultuous, God called for the honest tumult of the rolling waters of justice and the perennial stream of righteousness, the only foundation for true praise and worship of the Lord” (note on verse 24). If Israel would only listen to God and heed, then He would not send the calamities (verses 14-15). But history shows that the Israelites failed to listen—and Israel, as a political entity, ceased to exist. Just so, history will repeat itself in the end time.

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