Bible Commentary: Amos 8-9

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Bible Commentary

Amos 8-9

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Two More Visions

The basket of summer fruit (Amos 8): Israel was ripe for punishment and it would come quickly. Again, Amos enumerates the Israelites' sins: their inhumanity, their dishonest business practices and their injustice. But now he adds another matter—their careless approach to the Sabbath. Instead of keeping the Sabbath as holy time (compare Exodus 20:10-11; Isaiah 58:13), they were busy planning what they would do when it ended. "You can't wait for the Sabbath to be over and the religious festivals to end so you can get back to cheating the helpless" (Amos 8:5, New Living Translation). Christ is the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28), and, despite those who try to do away with God's commandments, His Sabbath law is binding on Christians today. Keeping the Sabbath is more than staying home from work and just going to church services for an hour or two. The Sabbath is an entire day—from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset—that God declared to be holy. Whenever that time comes to us, we are in holy time. It is God's time, not ours. He commands us to keep it holy. To profane it is a sin.

In verse 11, God says He will send a famine of hearing His words. Shockingly, the only thing that could rescue the Israelites at this point—i.e., God's truth, if they would only heed it—is taken away from them. That this is an end-time prophecy can be seen in the heavenly signs of verse 9. As God's "two witnesses" will be proclaiming God's words publicly for three and a half years leading up to Christ's return (see Revelation 11:1-13), it seems evident that the famine of the Word would precede their preaching. Putting other verses together, it is also evident that the two witnesses begin their preaching at the same time the Great Tribulation befalls Israel. Thus, it appears that the famine of the Word will occur prior to the Tribulation, when destruction and captivity is imminent. Still, it may be that the famine of the Word does run through the Tribulation, since it may not be so easy for the captive Israelites to hear the message of the two witnesses. In any case, with the coming famine of God's Word in mind, His servants today should have the same urgent mindset that Jesus Christ had in His human ministry. He told His disciples, "I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work" (John 9:4).

The Lord standing by the altar (Amos 9): "The people would have expected a vision of God by the altar to mean that He intended good for them, blessing them with His presence. Instead God would start at the altar, commanding that the destruction of the sinful nation begin there" (Nelson Study Bible, note on verse 1). If this meaning is correct, then the verse is parallel with Ezekiel 9:6, where God says that destruction will begin at His sanctuary. However, it may be that the altar of Amos 9:1 is the pagan altar of Bethel—perhaps indicating that false worship is to be destroyed. Or the altar image may symbolize God making a "sacrifice" of many people (compare Isaiah 34:6; Jeremiah 46:10; Ezekiel 39:17-20). In any case, this vision does not bode well for the Israelites.

God even seems to say that He will slay Israel to the last man (Amos 9:1), finding them no matter where they go (verses 2-4). Yet He clarifies that a remnant of Israel would survive, passing through the nations as grain is sifted through a sieve (verses 8-9). While the political entity of Israel is destroyed, the Israelites are not utterly obliterated as a people. This, we should note, is an end-time prophecy, referring to the final captivity of Israel. However, for Israel to even exist in the end time, the exact same "sifting" process must have occurred in the wake of Israel's ancient captivity, making this prophecy dual in its fulfillment. The northern kingdom of Israel was taken captive by Assyria, but the "lost ten tribes" survived, being "sifted" through the nations, later to emerge as modern peoples in Northwest Europe. In fact, the United States and Britain are the principal nations of Israel today (see The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy for more detailed information). We would do well, then, to take warning.

Future Restoration of Israel

Amos' prophecy ends with a picture of the wonderful restoration of Israel under the rule of Jesus Christ. The "lost ten tribes" will return to their homeland, and the land will flourish as never before. "Israelite farmers plowed at the beginning of the rainy season, from mid-October. They harvested the grain crop—first barley, then wheat—from late March to early June. For the plowman to overtake the reaper would mean such an abundant harvest that it would last all summer and would not be gathered until the plowing had started again. Grapes were harvested from mid-summer to early fall. The grain crop was sown after the plowing in late fall. For the treader of grapes to overtake him who sows seed would mean the grape harvest would be so abundant that it would be extended for several weeks. The harvest of grapes would be so great that it would seem as though the mountains and hills themselves were flowing with rivers of sweet wine" (Nelson, note on verse 13). The Jewish resettlement of the Holy Land in the 20th century has certainly not fulfilled these verses. They describe the time following Christ's return, when Israel will never be uprooted again (verse 15).