Amos 3 (NIV)
Witnesses Summoned Against Israel
According to the first verse of chapter 1, Amos prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah over Judah (792–740 b.c.) and Jeroboam II over Israel (793–753). The main part of his ministry was probably carried out c. 760–750. Both kingdoms were enjoying great prosperity and had reached new political and military heights. It was also a time of idolatry, extravagant indulgence in luxurious living, immorality, corruption of judicial procedures and oppression of the poor. As a consequence, God would soon bring about the Assyrian captivity of the northern kingdom (722–721).
Israel at the time was politically secure and spiritually smug. About 40 years earlier, at the end of his ministry, Elisha had prophesied the resurgence of Israel’s power (2 Kings 13:17-19), and more recently Jonah had prophesied her restoration to a glory not known since the days of Solomon (2 Kings 14:25). The nation felt sure, therefore, that she was in God’s good graces. But prosperity increased Israel’s religious and moral corruption. God’s past punishments for unfaithfulness were forgotten, and his patience was at an end—which he sent Amos to announce.
–NIV Study Bible notes
1Hear this word, people of Israel, the word the LORD has spoken against you—against the whole family I brought up out of Egypt:
The central act of redemption in the Old Testament was the Lord bringing the people of Israel out of their slavery in Egypt. God frequently refers to himself as the one who rescued them, reminding them of his goodness towards them. Israel’s rejection of the Lord is all the more inexcusable because of God’s wonderful deliverance!
2 “You only have I chosen
of all the families of the earth;
therefore I will punish you
for all your sins.”
3 Do two walk together
unless they have agreed to do so?
Here Amos asks several questions that have obvious answers — “Is the Pope Catholic?” kind of questions.
4 Does a lion roar in the thicket
when it has no prey?
Does it growl in its den
when it has caught nothing?
5 Does a bird swoop down to a trap on the ground
when no bait is there?
Does a trap spring up from the ground
if it has not caught anything?
6 When a trumpet sounds in a city,
do not the people tremble?
When disaster comes to a city,
has not the LORD caused it?
7 Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing
without revealing his plan
to his servants the prophets.
8 The lion has roared—
who will not fear?
The Sovereign LORD has spoken—
who can but prophesy?
Amos is saying he must prophesy once the Lord has spoken, just as people must feel fear when they hear a lion roar.
9 Proclaim to the fortresses of Ashdod
and to the fortresses of Egypt:
“Assemble yourselves on the mountains of Samaria;
see the great unrest within her
and the oppression among her people.”
10 “They do not know how to do right,” declares the LORD,
“who store up in their fortresses
what they have plundered and looted.”
11 Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says:
“An enemy will overrun your land,
pull down your strongholds
and plunder your fortresses.”
This was fulfilled in the Assyrian invasion of Israel, less than 30 years after Amos made this prophecy. The bas-relief above shows King Tiglath Pileser II besieging a town.
12 This is what the LORD says:
“As a shepherd rescues from the lion’s mouth
only two leg bones or a piece of an ear,
so will the Israelites living in Samaria be rescued,
with only the head of a bed
and a piece of fabric from a couch.”
Exodus 22:10-13 says that if an animal dies in the care of another man – such as a shepherd – that the shepherd must make restitution to the owner of the animal, unless he can bring remains that demonstrate the animal was attacked by a predator. “Amos’ comparison, then, makes the sarcastic point that when invasion strikes Israel’s devastation will be so complete that all that will be rescued is proof of death in the form of scraps of furniture.” (Hubbard)
13 “Hear this and testify against the descendants of Jacob,” declares the Lord, the LORD God Almighty.
14 “On the day I punish Israel for her sins,
I will destroy the altars of Bethel;
the horns of the altar will be cut off
and fall to the ground.
15 I will tear down the winter house
along with the summer house;
the houses adorned with ivory will be destroyed
and the mansions will be demolished,”
declares the LORD.
After a little more than ten years as a subject state in the Assyrian Empire, Israel was completely conquered by Assyria and the people of Israel were taken from their land and scattered throughout the Assyrian Empire. The Ten Tribes of the Northern Kingdom disappeared; all their treasure was worthless to save them.
“They do not know how to do right,” the Lord says in verse 10, as they put their trust in their lovely possessions. The Israelites found out the hard way that “things” don’t last. But faith, hope, and love — these remain.
I remember as a child hearing George Beverly Shea sing this song as my family watched Billy Graham Crusades on television. Shea was born in Canada in 1909, son of a Wesleyan Methodist preacher; he died at age 104. HERE is “I’d Rather Have Jesus.”